North America is among the world's wealthiest regions (no, it's not the wealthiest
). It is also home to some of the world's sorriest cities.
Abandoned by businesses and professional workers, riddled with crime, starved for the basic services many communities take for granted, a handful of US cities are on the brink of failure.
These cities got to this sad juncture in a variety of ways -- via recession, high crime, unemployment, and natural disasters. Generally, though, absent a catastrophic event, it's not just one thing that has pulled these cities down. Urban erosion, triggered by various forces and operating over time, has pushed the bottom out of these municipal economies. Investors and wealthy citizens have fled. Businesses have dried up. Criminals have moved in.
In this slideshow, we examine five US cities we believe to be on the brink of failure -- from least to most in danger. Unless something is done to reverse the woeful trends these cities face, we think these ciites are headed for eventual abandonment.
There is hope: For each city on our list, we report on at least one effort at rescuing what good remains. If you know of others, sound off on the message board below.
What do you think? Can these cities be saved? Do you live in any of these cities? Let us know that too. Click the link below to start the slideshow.
Next page: 5) Memphis, Tenn.