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, Alaska, sits along the coast of the Cook Inlet, in the southern part of the state. It’s a tough place to make a living, with low wages and a high unemployment rate. These economic troubles make it the number 1 worst spot to live in the Last Frontier.
The population of 7,742 residents ekes out a living with a median income of $61,348. That’s the 4th lowest level in Alaska. The people earning that meager amount can count themselves lucky, though. Many of their neighbors don’t have jobs at all, with the unemployment rate standing at 7.7%.
The crime rate in Kenai sits more than 200% above the national average. Meanwhile, the cost of living in the area is about 10% above the U.S. standard. The median home value is $229,100.
Wasilla has a population of 10,071. That may seem relatively low, but for the Last Frontier, it represents a virtual metropolis. That figure ranks 3rd in the state. Unfortunately, Wasilla has another distinction: it’s known as the number 2 worst place to live in Alaska.
The town (which once had Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin as its mayor) has major economic problems. The unemployment rate sits at 8.0%, the 5th highest pace in Alaska. Even the available jobs don’t pay very well. The median income is $63,587.
This weak economic base leads to other problems. The crime rate in Wasilla is more than 150% above the U.S. standard. Meanwhile, the community supports a spotty education system.
They call Alaska “The Last Frontier.” Kotzebue represents that concept perfectly. It’s located in the northern part of the state, along the Pacific Coast. Unfortunately, a breathtaking landscape is about all the town has going for it. It sits at number 3 on the list of least attractive spots to live in Alaska.
The unemployment rate in town is the 4th highest pace in the state, with a figure of 8.1%. The median income leaves a lot to be desired as well. That number sits at $81,188.
Kotzebue has a weak school system as well, with its elementary school scoring a 2/10 from Great Schools. The crime rate is also high, coming in about 190% above the U.S. average.
Wrangell, Alaska, provides the main population center on Wrangell Island, part of a chain located in the southernmost part of the state. This leaves the community rather isolated, limiting economic opportunity there. The result? The number 4 least enticing spot to live in the state.
Wrangell has some things going for it. The crime rate is below the national average and it supports a solid school system. However, making a living on the island is tough. The community of 2,502 residents endures a median income of $53,894. This ranks 1st in the state as a whole.
Meanwhile, the median home value sits at $216,200.
Not everything in Bethel is grim. Each year, the 6,472 residents of the town can enjoy the Kuskokwim 300 dogsled race or show up for the Yup’ik dance festival. But life in the community definitely has its grim elements, as Bethel ranks as the number 5 worst spot to live in Alaska.
First off, it’s tough to find a job around town. The unemployment rate sits at 9.5%, the 3rd worst level in the state. As a result, the poverty rate hovers at 15.9%.
Schools in Bethel are bad, with scores as low as 1/10 on Great Schools. Also, for such a small town, the community suffers a high crime rate.
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 attacked here, odds are you know someone who was.
Or, you knew who dunnit.
Palmer is located in the southern-central part of Alaska, about 45 minutes outside of Anchorage, the state’s largest population center. Unfortunately, this proximity to a city hasn’t saved the community from being identified as the number 7 least attractive spot in the state to put down roots.
Jobs are the main issue for the 7,131 inhabitants of Palmer. The area ranks as number 1 on the list of highest unemployment rates in Alaska. The figure comes in at 10.9%.
Schools in the area are good and the overall cost of living is under control…at least for Alaska. However, the high jobless rate leads to significant poverty. That in turn, fuels a high crime rate. Palmer suffers the number 13 highest violent crime rate in the state.
In an almost literal sense, Nome is a city of gold. It was originally founded as part of the gold rush that took place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (back then, it was the most thriving city in the region). However, those golden days are largely in the past. In the 21st century, Nome counts as the number 8 worst place to live in Alaska.
Located on the Pacific coast toward the northern part of the state, this community of 3,850 people is very isolated. The town has local roads, but no major highway to link it with the other parts of the state.
As you might guess, this solitude tends to stifle the economy. The unemployment rate is the 2nd highest in Alaska, coming in at 9.6%. The median income sits at $84,574. The crime rate sits about 65% above the national average.
Kodiak, Alaska, stands as the biggest population center on Kodiak Island, located south of Alaskan mainland. Its economy is largely fueled by the commercial fishing industry – though that doesn’t keep this town of 6,022 residents from becoming the number 9 least enticing place in the state.
The unemployment rate in the area is reasonably low, coming in at 3.6%. But while getting a job is relatively easy, making ends meet is still hard. The median income is just $73,310, the 9th lowest mark among Alaska’s notable cities.
These economic problems contribute to safety issues on the island. The population suffers a crime rate more than 60% above the national average. Meanwhile, the cost of living is 20% above the U.S. standard.
Most of Alaska’s major cities lie along the coast. Fairbanks is an exception. It sits in the middle of the country, placing it within a setting of unmatched natural beauty. But, this being the Last Frontier, life has its challenges. In fact, Fairbanks is known as the number 10 worst location in Alaska to live.
Like much of the state, expenses are high in Fairbanks. Located far from any other population center, the cost of living runs about 30% above the national average. That makes it tough on the 31,551 inhabitants of the area, who have to make due on median incomes of $62,602. The unemployment rate sits at 7.7%.
Crime is also a problem in Fairbanks. The city’s crime rate is double the U.S. norm.
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?