How would an American native speaker refer to someone whose house is located in a bad part of town where some poor people with a lower social / cultural level live and where the dwellers' average income is usually too low in comparison with the people who live in posh districts of the town?

I have found some words and expressions which can be used in a sentence which I'm going to say, but I doubt if they are unnatural, old-fashioned etc.

  • He/she lives in a working class neighborhood.
  • He/she lives in a bad part of town.
  • He/she lives in boondocks.
  • He/she lives in boonies.
  • He/she lives in projects.

I was wondering if you could let me know if they do not work properly, how a native would indicate such a message?

1 Answer 1


Focusing on the "bad" ...

In AmE:

A working class neighborhood is typically not considered a "bad part of town". These neighborhoods usually have relatively lower rates of violent crime and drug abuse, and the housing stock is usually well-maintained, with a relatively higher number of homeowners; trash removal by the city is regular, and there are usually nearby conveniences such as food markets.

A "bad neighborhood" typically has a high rate of violent crime and drug abuse, and the housing stock is poorly maintained, often by "absentee landlords" who allow their rental properties to become derelict; trash removal and other municipal services are less reliable and refuse can build up on the streets; there are few conveniences. These neighborhoods are often located in what have been called "food deserts", where access to fresh foods is limited.

"The boondocks" and colloquially "the boonies" are rural. Population density is lower. Violent crime rates are usually much lower than they are in urban "bad neighborhoods", but a good many rural communities have been hard hit by recreational drug abuse, methamphetamine and heroine. Sometimes the housing stock is ramshackle, but not necessarily so. Food markets are usually quite a distance away. These areas are rarely given over to subsistence farming. Trash removal is not handled by the municipality but by private contractors, and so in rural communities one often sees discarded items on the properties which would have been removed on "large trash pickup day" in a suburb.

"The projects" are government-run rent-subsidized dwellings, sometimes low-rise, sometimes high-rise, usually found in urban centers. Many of them have high rates of violent crime and and drug abuse and they are often found in or near "bad neighborhoods".

  • 1
    +1. You might underscore that boondocks, boonies and projects require the definite article. Commented Nov 26, 2016 at 13:17
  • Thank you very much TRomano, you almost mentioned to every needed information excepting what actually I was going to know the most. :) Could you possibly let me know how an AE native speaker would refer to someone in my question?
    – A-friend
    Commented Nov 26, 2016 at 13:27
  • Meanwhile please let me know about the word "Ghetto" too. :)
    – A-friend
    Commented Nov 26, 2016 at 13:29
  • Your question is unclear, A-friend. What do you mean by "refer to"? And where does this person live? Are you asking if we have names for people based on the kind of neighborhood they live in? Comparable to suburbanite?
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 26, 2016 at 13:29
  • The ghetto in AmE parlance is synonymous with an urban "bad neighborhood": derelict housing stock, unreliable municipal services, high crime and drug abuse rates, very few conveniences.
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 26, 2016 at 13:30

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