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Dick: Do you think we live on the wrong side of the tracks?
Tommy: What are you talking about? The tracks are right over there.

Sally: Yeah, if we lived on the other side of 'em, we'd have to wait for the train to pass every time we went to the liquor store.

Most economies in the modern world run on some form of capitalism. There exists, in these economies, ways for people to get rich, or at least make a comfortable income. But not everyone.

Welcome to The Wrong Side Of The Tracks. Crippling poverty is a day-to-day fact for people living in this type of neighborhood, often leading to both an increase in crime and the residents requiring aid from the government to meet their financial needs. Many residents are homeless or close to it, and work is difficult to find.

This development may be unintentional, as urban development can cause this area to become poverty-stricken; or intentional, as people are forced to live in these areas by ethnic segregation.

Due to difficulty in securing income legally, residents may turn to less-than-legal methods of acquiring money by way of theft or sale of illegal goods.

This trope can be seen in two major classes:

Industrial Slum: This area usually springs up around rapid industrialization of an urban area. Those who work in the factories usually live in this area, barely getting by on a meager living. Deaths from disease and poor working conditions are common, leaving many children without parental support forced to live on the streets, or end up in an Orphanage of Fear with no government regulation. The poor here have the choice of either living on the street or working in workhouses. This variant makes this entire trope Older Than Steam.

Modern Ghetto: This variant has similar origins to the Industrial Slum, but is usually promoted by businesses leaving the area and taking their business with them due to the already-existing conditions. Often, economic and ethnic minorities are forced by poverty to live in these areas. Individuals living here are often more likely to receive government aid. Crime often runs rampant, usually in the form of burglary, drug sale, robbery, prostitution and gang-related violence. Often plays host to broken homes, runaway children, alcoholism and violence. Nearly always has an Inner-City School.

Home of many Gang-Bangers. See also City Noir for a citywide mood, The City Narrows for a fully criminal subdistrict, and Wretched Hive for near-total lawlessness. If there's an inspirational underdog story about a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits who want to go to a sports meet, they have to make do with Improvised Training. If this place is filled with Fantastic Races, its a Fantastic Ghetto. It is possible that it is a Close-Knit Community, where the characters support each other against their problems.

Examples of Wrong Side of the Tracks include:


  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's takes place in Satellite, a blending of the Modern Ghetto type with the ghettos of Nazi Germany.
  • A very literal example in Code Geass, where Zero takes his minions-to-be on a train ride through Tokyo and asks Kallen what she sees out of the windows to her right: "A city of the Britannians. A city of robbers which stands because of our sacrifices." And to her left? "Our city. The husk of a city which was sucked dry by the Britannians." Areas like Saitama and Shinjuku deal with all the problems of any modern ghetto on top of the occasional genocidal purge when The Empire needs to find someone.
  • Fabiola Iglesias from Black Lagoon was born and raised in the barrios of Caracas, Venezuela. In the 2nd episode of the 3rd season, we get an aerial view of Caracas that is very similar to the Code Geass example: a clean, modern city and an overcrowded massive slum are divided by a highway between them.

Comic Books

  • Taken to extremes in Give Me Liberty, where the Chicago housing project of Cabrini-Green is walled in and turned into a virtual prison for the residents.




"If this is slum kids, I like it!" protested Peaches.
"Well, Sunrise Alley ain't so slummy as where you was, Lily," explained the boy.


Live Action TV

  • Lincoln Heights is supposed to the a bad neighborhood; in fact the show spends an entire season telling the viewers how bad it is. But when you look at the neighborhoods it turns out that it's not as bad as we're led to believe. The 2 story, 3 bedroom house that the Suttons live in is HUGE, and perfectly suitable for a middle class family living in Los Angeles, CA. The main problem is the inner city gangs, which could be controlled by better policing by the Lincoln Heights police as opposed to their lackadaisical approach to policing in that area.
  • The Wire's main setting is the slums of Baltimore.
  • Santana from Glee claims to be from Lima Heights Adjacent, which apparently is this trope (she even uses the term "on the wrong side of the tracks"), although she also claims that her father is a doctor...
    • It doesn't help that Lima Heights Adjacent does not exist in real life, when other Ohio towns—even those that were only mentioned once—have real world counterparts.


  • Hip-hop and rap originally got their start in poorer inner city areas. Many artists themselves if we are to believe their music as truth.
    • A lot are, especially back in the day.
  • Similarly, punk originated in the poorer areas of London and New York during The Seventies.
  • Brazilian Baile Funk is a contemporary music from the ghettos. Many musician perform free gigs in the Barrio, and the next night, at a club on the other side of the tracks, now charging for tickets.
  • True to its name, Blues also began as the music of the poor and miserable.
  • Rag Doll by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

The girl is from the wrong side of the tracks. The boy loves her anyway.

  • Dawn by Frankie Valli and The Four seasons.

The boy is from the wrong side of the tracks; he tells the girl to stay with the other boy. Frankly, the song is drowning in Wangst bordering on brain-bleeding territory — the hottest/nicest/most generally awesome girl in town wants him and he's turning her down because she's rich? Or maybe he's just a Jerkass with self-esteem issues.

  • Tobacco Road by Tommy Cash
  • Down in the Boondocks by Billy Joe Royal
  • In The Ghetto by Elvis Presley
  • Hallowed Ground by Erasure
  • Trenchtown Rock by Bob Marley
  • Poor Side of Town by Johnny Rivers
  • Leader Of The Pack by The Shangri-Las ("My parents said he came from the wrong side of town...")

Professional Wrestling

Tabletop Games

  • Shadowrun's Seattle, already a Wretched Hive, has a Wrong Side of the Tracks called The Barrens. You do not want to go there.
    • There are actually two Barrens - Puyallup and Redmond - and both are hellholes.
  • In D&D's Planescape setting (and by extension, Planescape: Torment), the Hive in Sigil definitely counts.


  • Seymour's neighborhood in Little Shop of Horrors is Skid Row.
  • Death of a Salesman
  • Rent takes place in Aphabet City, a neighbourhood in New York's Lower East Side. A noteworthy depiction, since it portrays people existing in poverty due to economic and social conditions living alongside those who live in poverty due to their unconventional and unprosperous lifestyle choice, with a certain amount of antagonism between the two.

Video Games

  • The slums of Midgar in Final Fantasy VII.
  • The Wrong Side of the Tracks on Kingdom of Loathing. It's immediately across the tracks (Which have no trains and don't lead anywhere) from the Right Side of the Tracks.
  • In Ragnarok Online,in Lighthaltzen, there is a literally wrong side of the tracks,with crappy slums, coroporate guards and other suspicious things.
  • The entirety of Clint City from Urban Rivals.
  • Dragon Age has Dust Town, the home of the casteless dwarves, in the dwarven city of Orzammar. Practically enforced by Orzammar's rigid caste system.
    • The elven alienage in Denerim also counts. It is isolated from the rest of the city and consists largely of run-down buildings.
  • In Dragon Age II, Lowtown qualifies as the Wrong Side of the Tracks, being the former slave quarter of the city. As a refugee from Ferelden, this is where the main character is living at the start of Act 1. Darktown — the city's labyrinthine sewer system — might also qualify, but it's closer to being a Wretched Hive.
  • Bioshock 2 has Paupers Drop, which is both the wrong side of the tracks and underneath the tracks. There is also siren alley which is a good area gone bad during the Rapture civil war.
  • The city of Rogueport in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door would qualify. The place is filled with thieves and bandits, and is considered the lowest of the low in terms of living conditions. Of course, the west side of town is noticeably cleaner and less run-down, but that's probably due to the fact that the west side is run by a wealthy mafia and the east side of Rogueport is run by a not-so-wealthy gang.
    • Flopside in Super Paper Mario could fall under this category too. It's supposed to be the "dark" counterpart of Flipside, so while Flipside is bright and clean with happy residents, Flopside has a darker color scheme and dilapidated buildings and morbidly depressing locals.

Western Animation

  • A number of The Simpsons episodes have featured the Wrong Side of the Tracks district in Springfield.
    • The Simpsons Hit & Run even has a song called Wrong Side of the Tracks.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Lower Ring of Ba Sing Se.
  • When the other boys go to stay at Kenny's house in South Park, they find his house directly across the tracks from their homes.


Real Life

  • Hell's Kitchen in New York, where West Side Story was set and filmed, used to be considered dangerous.
  • There is an actual neighborhood literally called "Skid Row", the "Meatpacking District", and/or "Tenderloin" in various cities in the U.S. Such older downtown business areas are prone to general poverty, neglect and homelessness more than out-and-out crime and violence. Ironically, Times Square, which borders on Hells Kitchen, and "The Bowery" in downtown Manhattan used to be the Ur Example of such shuttered small-business districts. Ironically, Skid Row in Los Angeles is now a vibrant urban immigrant neighborhood.
  • American neighborhoods such as Compton (California) and parts of the Bronx (New York).
  • Shanty towns in the Caribbean islands.
  • Barrios and the legendary Favelas of Brazil.
  • Caserios in Puerto Rico.
  • Go over to a far end of West Philadelphia's Overbrook neighborhood, and you'll see this. Right along City Avenue isn't too bad an area, and Overbrook is also home to the fairly nice Saint Joseph's University, but it's extremely unwise to travel much further than that if it can be helped; the area is... well, not good.
    • That is also... hardly Philly's worst area. And nothing in Philly can possibly compare to Chester.
  • The industrial slum version is common in Russia, especially now, slowly transforming into the ghetto version with most big industries dying out, leaving the people unemployed.
  • In the early twentieth century, the Canadian city of Winnipeg had a district full of poor immigrants that was actually separated from the rest of the city by the train tracks.
  • This is sadly still literally true in many old-fashioned Southern towns, e.g. Memphis, albeit with quaint results (e.g. a fancy golf course guarded by rottweilers directly across the railroad tracks from an Afrocentric bookstore!)
  • Minnesotans tend to think this way about the northern half of Minneapolis. Technically, there are no tracks involved - the light rail doesn't go past Target Field for a reason.
  • The Kowloon Walled City had fame as a Wretched Hive, but actually was more like this. Specially from the mid-Seventies on, when there was a tacit agreement between the mainland authorities (to whom the area ostensibly belonged) and the British, that allowed British police to operate within the Walled City. This radically brought down the crime activity and increased the quality of life, as the utilities could come there as well. (Besides, The Triads and the Tongs considered the place a sort-of base and not a feeding ground, so it wasn't exactly in their interests to cause mayhem.)
  • East Cleveland, a suburb of Cleveland that has possibly the worst crime in Ohio. Granted, it's hard to find the right side of the tracks in Cleveland nowadays, but East Cleveland has long been notorious for being the worst hellhole in the area.
  • Baltimore, Maryland has a very distinctive difference between the beautiful Inner Harbor (tourist district) and the areas surrounding it. This troper was actually shocked at how distinct the line between the two was (across a metro line), when she stayed at a hotel just outside the Inner Harbor area.