17 Small US Towns To Avoid Due to Urban Decay

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By Jonathan Trent

Many small towns in the U.S., once filled with successful businesses and thriving neighborhoods, are now struggling with urban decay. There are many reasons that have contributed to such deterioration, so let’s look at 17 small U.S. towns to avoid due to urban decay.

Gary, Indiana

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A significant decline in industrial jobs has led to widespread unemployment in Gary, Indiana. The town also deals with high crime rates and a rapidly deteriorating infrastructure, with abandoned buildings and vacant lots dominating the landscape. Unfortunately, poverty is becoming a real issue due to the lack of work available.

Camden, New Jersey

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According to The New York Times, rows of abandoned houses have become a trademark of Camden, New Jersey. The town experiences consistent issues with poverty, drug addiction, violent crime, a lack of career opportunities, and failing public services, all of which have led to a mass exodus of many of the town’s buildings.

East St. Louis, Illinois

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Inadequate housing and poor living conditions make East St. Louis somewhere to avoid, especially due to the high levels of crime and unemployment. It also struggles with pollution and a heavily neglected infrastructure. We hope this changes for East St. Louis in the future!

Flint, Michigan

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The water crisis in Flint has had long-term health impacts on its residents, making it a place to miss on your U.S. road trip. The area also has many abandoned homes, high poverty rates, and failing schools, making it difficult for young people to improve their situations. 

Cleveland, Ohio

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A significant reduction in manufacturing jobs led to huge economic struggles in Cleveland, manifesting in high crime rates and severe poverty in certain areas. With deteriorating neighborhoods and services, it’s best to avoid this town if you’re passing by.

Trenton, New Jersey

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Trenton, New Jersey, has suffered from economic decline and high unemployment rates, issues with crime and public safety, and a significant neglect of public infrastructure and housing for years. Many of the residents are dealing with poverty, addiction, and a generally poor quality of life. We deeply hope that this can change.

Detroit, Michigan

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The Guardian says that Detroit has become the largest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy, which is shocking. The city was once famous for its thriving motor and music industries but has since become known for urban decay and high crime rates.

Chester, Pennsylvania

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Chester regularly deals with violent crime and has a serious problem with unemployment and education, leading to a spiral of poverty. It also has a lot of abandoned and decaying buildings and a lack of funding available to deal with these issues, making it a generally unpleasant place to visit.

Birmingham, Alabama

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Like many others on this list, persistent poverty and high crime rates make Birmingham, Alabama, an unattractive place to visit or live. It has dealt with a range of economic challenges over the years, including failing infrastructure and a significant decline in population, leading to abandoned properties.

Pine Bluff, Arkansas

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Pine Bluff is plagued by economic decline and industrial job losses. High rates of crime and poverty have worsened these challenges, and people moving away have caused deteriorating infrastructure and vacant properties. Like many other cities featured today, this has caused a negative feedback loop of poverty.

Scranton, Pennsylvania

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Scranton’s economic struggles are largely due to the countrywide decline in coal mining, which the town has never really recovered from. This has led to high unemployment and issues with crime, leading the city to struggle with poverty and safety. It’s a pretty tragic situation.

Atlantic City, New Jersey

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Atlantic City has dealt with a significant economic downturn and a decline in tourism, which PBS claims is due to its closing many of its once-famous casinos, leading to thousands of job losses. This has led to high crime rates and failing public services, as well as numerous vacant properties and neglected areas.

Shreveport, Louisiana

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Shreveport, Louisiana, is known for its deteriorating infrastructure and vacant properties, which make the town a serious eyesore. The decline in industrial jobs and economic challenges have led to this situation, along with high rates of poverty and crime and little opportunity to change it.

Springfield, Massachusetts

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You may be tempted to visit Springfield due to its name, but don’t; it has huge economic struggles, high unemployment rates, issues with crime, and deteriorating public services. It also suffers from large areas of urban decay, which is leading many residents to leave.

Youngstown, Ohio

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Youngstown suffered from the collapse of the steel industry, which led to economic hardship, 

high rates of unemployment and crime, and numerous vacant properties. As CNBC explains, more than half of Youngstown’s residents have left in the last 40 years because of these challenges, leaving it a ghost town. 

Hartford, Connecticut

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Hartford’s persistent economic challenges and high poverty rates make it a town to avoid, sadly. It also deals with overwhelming crime rates and public safety and, once again, a lack of resources or signs of change to improve its situation.

Huntington, West Virginia

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Last on our list of small U.S. towns to avoid is Huntington, West Virginia. Like many other towns, the loss of coal industry jobs led to significant economic hardship, which has sadly led to persistent unemployment and drug addiction issues. It’s a truly tragic state of affairs for a previously thriving town.