Cities Milwaukee among list of 20 cities to avoid

Photo by Emily Waller /

The city of Milwaukee has made another list.

This time, instead of being “Drunkest” or “Fourth Poorest City in America,” Milwaukee was deemed one of the “20 Cities You Don’t Want to Live In … Yet.”

From a study of the most beaten-up, undesirable cities in America, CNBC released an article last week detailing how the top 20 were rated. With the help of Bert Sperling, creator of Places, U.S.A., which allows individuals to find their best potential location of residency through online surveys, the article described “the good, bad and recovery” for each city.

According to the article, Milwaukee made the “20 cities” list due to its poor school performance, above average crime rate and struggle with job creation. As far as “the good” went, areas such as financial services, health care and cultural and outdoor activities were said to have helped transform the city from an industrial center to a diversified city.

It also noted Milwaukee as home to large corporations such as Northwestern Mutual, Kohl’s and Harley-Davidson, as well as numerous universities.

So what exactly is the data that makes Milwaukee so undesirable?

Regarding education, found only 74.8 percent of Milwaukeeans 25 and older graduated from high school, and just 18.3 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Looking at crime rate, the most recently reported city crime index from 2009 was almost double the national average.

Although Milwaukee ranks as one of the top cities nobody wants to live in, the “yet” in the title lends itself to the belief it is on the right path.

The article noted that Milwaukee’s unemployment rate is currently at 7.3 percent, which is less than the 8.4 percent of last August. It also said solar-production and other industries within the city will help the economy.

Some organizations are dedicated to helping the city recover, such as the Volunteer Center of Greater Milwaukee and United Way of Greater Milwaukee. Both of those groups focus on volunteerism within the community.

Betsy Rourke, spokesperson for United Way, said the three things listed as “bad” in the article are what the organization puts the most effort into.

“Education, income and health all go hand in hand,” Rourke said. “We have over 160 health and human services that will hopefully expand so Milwaukee can’t be put on a list like that again.”

On education, Bonnie Andrews, manager at the Volunteer Center, said there are over 800 volunteer opportunities to work with students and children. She also said Milwaukee Public Schools are increasing community involvement for more after school programs and homework help.

Focusing on employment, Andrews said volunteering oftentimes gives an individual the necessary skills to succeed in a professional workplace.

“When you volunteer, you’re more likely to do it again, know more people and their needs within the community and advocate for a cause,” she said. “Not only are you bettering the community, but you’re bettering yourself … and good people make for a good city.”

One thing the list failed to take into account, however, is that 30 percent of Milwaukee residents volunteer, according to That number ranks 13th amongst the nation’s largest 51 cities and leaves Milwaukee as the only representative from the “Don’t want to Live In” list within the top 15 volunteering states.

Reflecting on the list and his commentary, Sperling said he actually disagreed with many of the cities included. He also said he did not agree with what the data analysis was based off of.

“To me, every place is someone’s hometown and every place has something special,” he said. “Where CNBC focused on facts and figures for the article, I felt it was much more important to look at neighborhoods, culture and pride … which Milwaukee certainly has.”