I'm posting it here so I don't have to keep repeating it, and can simply link to it instead.
Reports based on Census data, sometimes by outside groups and other times by the Census Bureau itself, often (inadvertently, but to spectacular effect) short-change Riverside by using the Metropolitan Statistical Area as their unit of analysis. MSAs are based on county boundaries, and in most places this makes a lot of sense. Counties in most areas are
relatively small, cohesive economic units. The Riverside-San
Bernardino-Ontario MSA, however, encompasses the entirety
of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. That means that everything
from Montclair to Needles, from Corona to Blythe is included in the MSA.
To put this in perspective,
San Bernardino County is 51,934 km², making it the largest county in the
lower 48 (exceeded in area only by several Alaskan Boroughs.) It is
larger than 9 states, and larger than the smallest 4 states combined.
Riverside County is no slouch either, clocking in at 18,667 km² (still
larger than RI, DE, and CT). The Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario MSA,
then, is 70,601 km², larger than West Virginia. The portion of this
region that might count as a "city," however, is at best limited to
parts of the RTA, Omnitrans, Sun Transit and VVTA service areas.
Furthermore, the characteristics of the region outside of Riverside differ significantly from the characteristics of Riverside itself. Riverside and San Bernardino Counties have been the site of vast swaths of drive-until-you-qualify suburban development, but a comparatively small fraction of that development has occurred in the City itself. Much of the misery that puts Riverside on these lists is actually occurring in the recently-built desert exurbs-- places like Apple Valley, Adelanto, Perris, Hemet, Menifee, Desert Center-- and the infill development that was plopped down on former dairy farms in Eastvale, Mira Loma, Chino and the like. These areas were hard-hit by the housing bust, subsequent loss of construction jobs, and foreclosure crisis. By contrast, the City of Riverside (which, don't get me wrong, is still suffering) is a bit better off than its surrounds, thanks to relatively progressive city government and an aggressive infrastructure program known as Riverside Renaissance.
Riverside's place on many of these "Top Ten Worst Cities for X" list derives directly from the name of the MSA in which it resides- the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario MSA. Were it the Ontario-Riverside-San Bernardino MSA, not only would it be both more accurate and alphabetical, but it would also put Ontario in the position where Riverside presently is.
In summary, when Riverside ends up on some horrible Top Ten list, remember that it is likely not Riverside itself that is to blame.