Montana brings to mind images of Helena, beautiful landscapes, and some of the best people you’ll find in the good ole US of A.
However, like all states, Montana has certain places that are going on hard times. These places have an above average percent of people that are living in poverty, out of work, or not making as much as they should be.
With all the talk about income inequality going on around the country, we thought it prudent to take a look at the places in each state that are struggling to make it even as the economy continues to improve. So we set our sites on bringing attention to the places in Montana that could use a helping hand.
To do so, we analyzed the newest Census data from the American Community Survey for the 34 places in Montana with more than 2,000 people.
We were left with this set of the ten poorest places in the Treasure State for 2018:
- Cut Bank
- Wolf Point
- Missoula (Photos)
- Anaconda-Deer Lodge County (Photos)
Again, this isn’t a commentary on the people that live there or the vibrant culture and traditions of these places. Instead, it’s just a look at the facts.
And according to the facts, Dillon is the poorest place in Montana for 2018.
For more on how we calculated the top ten, and for more information about these places, read on.
How We Determined The Poorest Places In Montana For 2018
The first thing that comes to most people’s minds when they think about determining the poorest places is to simply the poverty rate. That is, the number of people living below a federally established level of income for a household of a certain size.
However, we don’t think that one statistic wholly encompasses what it means to be one of the ‘poorest places’. So we looked at this set of criteria from the newly released 2012-2016 American Community Survey:
- Poverty Level
- Median Household Income adjusted for the cost of living
- Unemployment Rate
The ‘median household income adjusted for the cost of living’ attempts to gauge how expensive it is to live in a place and how that impacts the quality of life. For example, a town might have fewer people living below the official poverty line, but the cost of living is so high they’d still feel poor.
The unemployment rate tries to capture the prospects for improvement in the city or town. If more people are employed, the brighter the future looks and vice versa.
After we collected the data for all 34 places with more than 2,000 people in Montana, we ranked each place from 1 to 34 for each of the criteria, with 1 being the poorest.
We then averaged all the rankings for a place into a ‘Poor Score’ with the place having the lowest overall Poor Score, Dillon, crowned the ‘Poorest Place In Montana For 2018’.
You can learn more about the top ten below or skip to the end to see the rankings for all 34 places.
Population: 4,214Median Income: $32,180
Unemployment Rate: 9.6%
Poverty Rate: 22.9%
Dillon, unfortunately, ranks as the poorest place in Montana thanks to combination of low pay and and a lack of jobs.
The city of 4,214 people averages the 4th lowest median household income in Montana and the 1st highest poverty rate. At the very least, the cost of living ranks in the bottom 15% of place in the state, so things like housing are relatively affordable.
Population: 2,674Median Income: $24,271
Unemployment Rate: 11.8%
Poverty Rate: 20.3%
The second poorest city in Montana is Libby.
The city ranks as having the 9th highest incidence of poverty and 1st lowest median household income. However, the unemployment rate ‘only’ ranks as the 2nd highest in the Treasure State.
Population: 4,674Median Income: $33,013
Unemployment Rate: 11.8%
Poverty Rate: 20.4%
Placing as the third poorest city, Polson’s median income ranks as the 5th lowest.
And that’s a sign that there’s a relatively substantial jump in the quality of the economy from second to third place on our list. The poverty rate is 20.4% and ranks near the bottom of places in the state.
But what makes up for the relatively low incomes of the city is its low cost of living. The income you do make here goes further than in most parts of the Treasure State.
4. Cut Bank
Population: 2,993Median Income: $36,542
Unemployment Rate: 6.7%
Poverty Rate: 20.9%
Cut Bank ranks as the fourth poorest place in Montana.
The town ranks as having the 6th lowest median household income and the 4th highest incidence of poverty in the state.
That being said, there’s still a ton of cultural diversity in the city as it hosts many events throughout the year.
Population: 3,803Median Income: $40,884
Unemployment Rate: 11.8%
Poverty Rate: 20.8%
The fifth poorest city in Montana is Hardin.
The city ranks as having the 13th lowest median income in the state. However, an extremely low cost of living prevents a good number of folks from living in poverty as the poverty rate only ranks as the 5th highest in Montana.
Still not the best news for Hardin.
Population: 4,539Median Income: $31,845
Unemployment Rate: 6.5%
Poverty Rate: 20.1%
Hamilton ranks as the sixth poorest place in the Treasure State.
It ranks as having the 10th highest incidence of poverty and the 10th highest unemployment rate.
Population: 2,016 Median Income: $32,120
Unemployment Rate: 6.1%
Poverty Rate: 19.1%
Stevensville places as the seventh poorest city in Montana.
The city of over 2,016 ranks as having the 14th highest incidence of poverty in the state. However, it has a very low cost of living which helps to pay the bills each month.
8. Wolf Point
Population: 2,801Median Income: $38,397
Unemployment Rate: 3.8%
Poverty Rate: 21.5%
Wolf Point ranks as the eighth poorest city in Montana.
The big issue for the town is the unemployment rate which ranks as the 19th highest in the state.
Population: 70,117Median Income: $42,389
Unemployment Rate: 7.4%
Poverty Rate: 19.3%
Missoula couldn’t stay out of the top ten poorest places in Montana; it ranks number 9.
While the median income is the 16th lowest, there are a substantial number of people that live below the poverty line. Overall, Missoula ranks as having the 12th most people living in poverty of all the places we analyzed in Montana.
10. Anaconda-Deer Lodge County
Population: 9,176Median Income: $39,212
Unemployment Rate: 3.7%
Poverty Rate: 20.8%
And rounding out the top ten poorest cities in Montana is Anaconda-Deer Lodge County.
The city of 9,176 people ranks in the bottom 20% for both median income and poverty rate in the Treasure State.
There You Have It – The Poorest Places In Montana For 2018
Like we said earlier, when we set out to identify the poorest places in Montana, we weren’t sure what we’d encounter, but it ended up being some of the best places to live in Montana.
When you look at the data, the cities and places mentioned above meet the criteria for being at the very bottom of the income ladder for everyone that lives there.
If you’re curious enough, here are the richest cities in Montana, according to data:
2nd Richest: Three Forks
3rd Richest: Glasgow
For more Montana reading , check out:
Detailed List Of The Poorest Cities In Montana
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