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You'd think that since practically every reality show on cable these days that isn't about housewives is about Alaska that it would be one of the most amazing places on earth.
Actually, for the people who live there, it is. It's tough, but they wouldn't have it any other way. They choose the rough and rugged lifestyle, and have set themselves on a whole other scale when it comes to American grit and determination.
There's no arguing that the state is breathtakingly beautiful.
But is it all good in The Last Frontier? Of course not. Just like every other state, Alaska has its least desirable spots. The purpose of this post is to use science and data to determine which places are the worst you could possibly live in if you make Alaska your home.
After analyzing 20 of the state's most populous cities (over 2,200 people), we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in the state of Alaska:
What? Where are these places you wonder? And before you get all riled up and say we're picking on small town America, that's not the case.
We understand there's a lot of good in every place.
However, according to data (which doesn't measure things like beauty and 'friendly people'), there are far better options in the state for making a place home. And the worst place to live in Alaska? That would be Kenai.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2021.
For more Alaska reading, check out:
The 10 Worst Places To Live In Alaska For 2021
Kenai is the largest city to make this list. Located on this same peninsula south of Anchorage, finding good medical care is also much harder than in other areas of the state. The unemployment rate is 7.7%, and crime is above average.
Welcome to Wasilla, Alaska, where 1 in 12.6 people is without a job, and families bring in a combined $63,587 a year.
Crime is the 2nd highest in Alaska, where you have a 1 in 17.4 chance of being the victim of a property crime, and every year, you have a 1 in 209 chance of being raped, attacked or murdered when you're within Wasilla city limits.
This may or may not be a surprise to you, but Kotzebue is the 6th most dangerous city in Alaska. For such a small city, there are an astounding number of property crimes. Residents here have a 1 in 39.6 chance of being the victim of some sort of robbery when within city limits every year. That's lots of stolen cell phones, guns, snowmobiles and lobster traps.
Besides the crime, there are a few other factors why Kotzebue might be one of the worst places to live. The home values here are pretty cheap. Why is that not a good thing? Because the salaries of people working in Kotzebue are really low. People here earn about $81,188 a year per household.
Additionally, the public schools in Kotzebue are some of the lowest funded in the state.
When all is said and done, you could find much more desirable places to live in Alaska than in Kotzebue.
When you're looking at the worst places you could live in Alaska, Wrangell ranks 4th worst. Let's see why.
Here in Wrangell, crime is the 19th highest in the state, and 1 out of 227.5 residents was robbed here according to the latest FBI numbers.
That's not the first place you think of making home, is it?
Additionally, you have a 1 in 1251 chance of being the victim of a violent crime, which includes rapes, attacks or murders. That's really high.
When you look at adult education in Alaska, the folks in Wrangell have the highest drop out rate. And other factors that make Wrangell undesirable are the low median incomes and home prices.
The unemployment rate is the 10th highest in Alaska, at 6.6%. That's actually on par with the national average, which means Alaska has some hard workers.
You can't blame them for living in Bethel since it's really beautiful, but there are sacrifices you make to live in the boonies. One of them is income.
Not only is the unemployment rate the 3rd highest in the state here (9.5%), the residents in Bethel earn the smallest household income in the state of Alaska. At a combined income of $83,367, families of four are barely above the poverty line.
In addition, the crime here is really high for a small city in Alaska. Bethel has the 10th highest crime rate in the state.
Dillingham is off by itself, along the gulf at the top of the Aleutian Islands. While it might be pretty, science doesn't measure beauty, remember?
1 in 10 people in Dillingham is without work, and the cost of health care is really high way out here. Which means, you'd better hope you can pay for a health emergency.
Crime is the 7th highest in the state here. Is that a surprise? You have a 1 in 45 chance of having your life threatened every year you spend in Dillingham city limits. That's off the charts high. Meaning if you weren't raped or attacked here, odds are you know someone who was.
Or, you knew who dunnit.
While numbers in Alaska are clearly better when you compare them to the rest of the nation, the fact is when you compare Alaska cities against one another, you see big differences.
Home values in Palmer average $207,200, which is the 2nd lowest in the state. Say what you want about 'cheap living,' the fact is homes are priced by demand, and there's not a lot of demand to live in Palmer.
Plus, 12.5% of the population here lives below the poverty line.
Plus, the crime rate is the 14th highest in the state here. Every year, when you're within Palmer city limits, you have a 1 in 35.0 chance of being robbed. That's a lot of broken into cars and homes.
If, by some reason, you were driving through Nome, after stopping to ask for directions, you may have noticed that things aren't so peachy keen here.
It's tough out there for people to stay afloat when their income levels are so low ($84,574) and they can't get good jobs (9.6% unemployment rate).
Nome ranks as the 8th wost place in Alaska.
Kodiak ranks as the 9th-worst place in Alaska due to a variety of factors, placing in the bottom third for unemployment, median income, and crime.
On top of that, residents have the 9th-worst commute of any place in the state.
Fairbanks's situation is very similar to others on the list; bottom of the barrel scores in unemployment, income, and crime, with decent education statistics keeping it from the very top of this list.
Fairbanks has the 4th worst crime index of any place in Alaska, and has the 7th lowest income.
How we determined the worst places to live in Alaska for 2021
To figure out how bad a place is to live in, we only needed to know what kinds of things people like and then decide what cities have the least amount of those things.
We don't think it's a stretch to assume that people like the following things:
- Good education
- Lots of jobs
- Low crime
- Low poverty
- Nice homes
- High incomes
- High population density (Lots of things to do)
- Short work commutes
- Health insurance
We broke crime down into violent crime and property crime to give violent crime a larger weight -- if you did a simple calculation of all crimes per capita, property crimes are normally 7x more common and really bias that ranking.
Furthermore, only cities with at least 2,000 people were considered -- leaving 20 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 20 for all the criteria with a #1 ranking being the worst for the particular criteria.
Next, we averaged the rankings into one "Worst Place To Live Score".
Finally, we ranked every city on the "Worst Place To Live Score" with the lowest score being the worst city in Alaska -- Kenai. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in Alaska. You can download the data here.
This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased.
Wrapping Up The Worst In Alaska
If you're looking at areas in Alaska with the worst economic situations, where there's higher than average crime, and not a lot to do, this is an accurate list.
And in the end, Kenai ranks as the worst city to live in Alaska for 2021.
If you're curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Alaska:
- Unalaska (Pop. 4,724)
- Cordova (Pop. 2,829)
- Valdez (Pop. 3,847)
For more Alaska reading, check out:
Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Alaska?