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Montana isn’t an incredibly smart or stupid state; according to a recent Washington Post study, Montana ranks as the 22nd smartest state in America, with above average scores in two of the study’s four intelligence-measuring metrics.
But some cities in Montana contribute heavily to its below average scores by lagging behind the rest of the state in terms of acquiring a basic education.
After crunching the numbers, we came up with this list of the ten dumbest cities in the Treasure State:
- Shelby (Photos)
- Hamilton (Photos)
- Laurel (Photos)
- Anaconda-Deer Lodge County (Photos)
- Glendive (Photos)
- Polson (Photos)
- Sidney (Photos)
- Hardin (Photos)
- Miles City (Photos)
- Great Falls (Photos)
How we determined the dumbest cities in the Treasure State
We realize that formal education isn’t everything when it comes to being smart, but on the other hand not knowing the difference between they’re, their, and there is always going to make you look pretty stupid.
So we narrowed down our criteria to focus both on a city’s educational opportunities and what percentage of the population takes advantage of those opportunities.
In short, we came up with these criteria to determine the dumbest cities in Montana:
- % of city’s population with less than a high school education (Age 25+)
- % of high school dropouts (Ages 16-19)
Note: We only looked at cities with populations greater than 2,000, leaving us 25 cities in Montana to rank. We also looked at the graduation rates of the entire population, not the current rates for high schoolers.
Adults Without High School Diploma: 14.5%
Teenage High School Dropouts: 16.5%
Located in northwestern Montana, Shelby takes the crown as the dumbest city in the state, despite the fact that one of the scientists who worked on the Human Genome Project graduated from Shelby High.
14.5% of Shelby’s residents over the age of 25 never completed high school, which gives Shelby the highest rate of uneducated adults in Montana.
Shelby also has the third highest high school dropout rate for students between the ages of 16-19, with 16.5% of students opting out of basic education.
With more students dropping out in the younger generation than did in the older generations, Shelby is sure to only grow dumber in the years to come.
Adults Without High School Diploma: 10.8%
Teenage High School Dropouts: 26.5%
Hamilton already ranked as the third most dangerous city in Montana in another one of our articles, so combined with its ranking as the second dumbest city in the state, we haven’t exactly written a glowing endorsement of the city.
Hamilton has the second highest teenage high school dropout rate in the state, with more than 1 in 4 teenagers dropping out of school each year.
The city also has the third highest rate of uneducated adults in Montana, but I’d say the absurdly high dropout rate for teenagers is a much bigger issue for the city’s long term well-being.
Adults Without High School Diploma: 10.8%
Teenage High School Dropouts: 12.6%
Located in Yellowstone County in southern Montana, Laurel’s mostly known as an industrial and agricultural community, so formal education may, understandably, be a lower priority in the city.
While it may not be as much of an issue that about 11 of every 100 adult residents of Laurel lack a GED, the fact that 12.6% of teenagers drops out of basic education each year limits a lot of the population’s opportunities.
4. Anaconda-Deer Lodge County
Adults Without High School Diploma: 9.1%
Teenage High School Dropouts: 15.8%
Located in western Montana, eight miles north of the Continental Divide, Anaconda ranks as the fourth dumbest place in Montana overall.
The dropout rate for teenagers in Anaconda is more than twice as high as the average for Montana’s cities (excluding Polson, which we’ll get into in a bit).
The rate of uneducated adult residents in Anaconda is only slightly higher than Montana’s average, but it still ranks in the bottom ten for cities we looked at data for.
Adults Without High School Diploma: 10.2%
Teenage High School Dropouts: 9.6%
Situated between the Yellowstone River and the Badlands in eastern Montana, Glendive is the fifth dumbest city in the state, according to the data.
About 1 in 10 adult residents of Glendive lack a high school diploma, which is the fifth highest rate of uneducated adults in the state.
The dropout rate for teenagers is also much higher than the state average and ranks among the ten worst cities in Montana, with nearly 1 in 10 high school students dropping out each year.
Adults Without High School Diploma: 7.9%
Teenage High School Dropouts: 8%
Located on the southern shore of Flathead Lake in northwestern Montana, Polson ranked even higher on our list of most dangerous cities in Montana, so apparently the city isn’t as dumb as it is dangerous.
Still, there’s a problem with teenagers dropping out of high school in Polson. A dropout rate of 8% ranks as the highest in the state.
The adults in Polson don’t do as much to hurt the city’s smartness scores as the teenagers; Polson’s rate of uneducated adults is roughly equivalent to the state average.
Adults Without High School Diploma: 8.1%
Teenage High School Dropouts: 15.6%
Just 10 miles away from the North Dakota border in northeastern Montana, Sidney ranks as the seventh dumbest city in Montana overall.
While the city’s rate of uneducated adults is only slightly higher than the state average, Sidney has more of an issue with keeping its current teenage population in school.
Sidney has the fifth highest rate of teenage high school dropouts in the state, with 15.6% of teenagers saying no to basic education, which basically sets Sidney up to have twice as stupid a population in the future.
Adults Without High School Diploma: 11.8%
Teenage High School Dropouts: 3.5%
Located in southern Montana, Hardin has the second highest rate of uneducated adults in the state.
About 12 of every 100 Hardin residents over the age of 25 lack a GED, which is a full 4% higher than the state average.
On the bright side, Hardin’s current high school dropout rate for teenagers is half as high as the state average (excluding Polson), so the city is positioned to become smarter than other MT cities in the years to come.
9. Miles City
Adults Without High School Diploma: 9.9%
Teenage High School Dropouts: 6.6%
A city in eastern Montana, Miles City ranks as the ninth dumbest city in Montana, with about average scores in both of our smartness metrics.
Roughly 1 in 10 adult residents of Miles City do not possess high school degrees, which is the sixth highest rate of uneducated adults in the state.
The dropout rate for teenagers in Miles City is slightly lower than the state average, but losing 6.6% of teenage students each year still seems less than brilliant.
10. Great Falls
Adults Without High School Diploma: 8.9%
Teenage High School Dropouts: 9.0%
Placing last on our list of dumbest cities in Montana is Great Falls, which ranks as the tenth worst city in the state for each our smartness metrics.
8.9% of Great Falls’ residents over the age of 25 lack a high school diploma and a slightly higher rate of the city’s current teenage population is dropping out of basic education.
Both of these rates are slightly worse than the state average, landing Great Falls in the last spot on the dumb-list.
Putting a dunce cap on our analysis
If you’re measuring the locations in Montana where there are a high number of teenage dropouts and adults who never received a formal education, this is an accurate list.
If you’re curious, here are the five smartest cities in Montana, in order: Bozeman, Belgrade, Whitefish, Helena, and Missoula. Bozeman and Belgrade are in Gallatin County in southwestern MT, while Whitefish, the state’s capital Helena, and Missoula are all in the northwestern part of the state.
Other notable cities: the biggest city in Montana, Billings ranked as the 13th dumbest (and 13th smartest) city in the state, meaning it’s just in the middle of the pack.
Kalispell ranked just a tad dumber than Billings, ranking as the 12th dumbest city in Montana.
Detailed List Of Dumbest Cities In Montana
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