The 10 Worst Places To Live In Alaska For 2021


We used science and data to determine which Alaska places are the real pits.

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Editor’s Note: This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out we updated this article for 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the worst places to live in Alaska.

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:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In Alaska For 2021

  1. Kenai
  2. Wasilla
  3. Kotzebue
  4. Wrangell
  5. Bethel
  6. Dillingham
  7. Palmer
  8. Nome
  9. Kodiak
  10. Fairbanks

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.

If you're looking for something more national, check out the worst cities in America or the worst states in America.

For more Alaska reading, check out:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In Alaska For 2021

Kenai, AK

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 7,742
Rank Last Year: 2 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $229,100 (7th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.7% (7th worst)
More on Kenai:  Data | Photos

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, AK

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 10,071
Rank Last Year: 3 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $243,400 (9th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 8.0% (5th worst)
More on Wasilla:  Data | Photos

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.

Kotzebue, AK

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 3,287
Rank Last Year: 4 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $236,500 (8th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 8.1% (4th worst)
More on Kotzebue:  Data | Photos

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, AK

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 2,502
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 7)
Median Home Value: $216,200 (5th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.6% (10th worst)
More on Wrangell:  Data | Photos

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.

Bethel, AK

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 6,472
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 4)
Median Home Value: $280,400 (15th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.5% (3rd worst)
More on Bethel:  Data | Photos

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, AK

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 2,215
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $266,200 (14th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.3% (11th worst)
More on Dillingham:  Data | Photos

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, AK

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 7,131
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $207,200 (2nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.9% (worst)
More on Palmer:  Data | Photos

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.

Nome, AK

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 3,850
Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 4)
Median Home Value: $258,100 (13th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.6% (2nd worst)
More on Nome:  Data | Photos

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, AK

Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 6,022
Rank Last Year: 7 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $255,000 (11th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 3.6% (16th worst)
More on Kodiak:  Data | Photos

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.

Fairbanks, AK

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 31,551
Rank Last Year: 14 (Up 4)
Median Home Value: $211,500 (4th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.7% (6th worst)
More on Fairbanks:  Data | Photos

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

The data comes from the Census's most recent American Community Survey and from the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

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:

  1. Unalaska (Pop. 4,724)
  2. Cordova (Pop. 2,829)
  3. Valdez (Pop. 3,847)

For more Alaska reading, check out:

Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Alaska?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Kenai 7,742 7.7% $229,100
2 Wasilla 10,071 8.0% $243,400
3 Kotzebue 3,287 8.1% $236,500
4 Wrangell 2,502 6.6% $216,200
5 Bethel 6,472 9.5% $280,400
6 Dillingham 2,215 6.3% $266,200
7 Palmer 7,131 10.9% $207,200
8 Nome 3,850 9.6% $258,100
9 Kodiak 6,022 3.6% $255,000
10 Fairbanks 31,551 7.7% $211,500

How Is The Area In ?

14 thoughts on “The 10 Worst Places To Live In Alaska For 2021

  1. This is the most idiotic article I have ever read. It maybe based on “data”, but the author has no idea what he is talking about and no clue about Alaska.

  2. I don’t understand how Nome didn’t make this list! But concur wholeheartedly on Homer’s inclusion. Other residents who disagree are clueless at best, complicit perps at worst. There is no reality in “Reality” Shows. Homer is a retirement community for oilfield executives, military, and corrupt politicians. Thus representing a pustulent cancer on the face of all creation. Proud to bomb 3rd world countries back to the stone age for profit.

  3. i disagree with your article. Soldotna boasts a hospital that includes a new oncology unit. We have plenty of doctors. We may not have many indoor venues but we live the outdoors and live an active lifestyle year round. Most of the crime here is petty property crimes unlike that in Anchorage, Wasilla and Fairbanks. I think you should rerun your numbers minus the property density category. That causes an unfair bias to the stats.

  4. Like Bethel is definitely the worst place to live, people there just have stds all the time. And the common sense they have, well they don’t have any they will just mess up there lives all the time. And there are no trees which makes it boring as the Lords existence.

  5. Dont know about the rest of these places but how is barrow not on this? seriously unless your indian your not welcome, they dont want you, could care less of you, and because asrc and nsb pay all the bills (who get paid by the government) they could care less about fixing anything or making anything better, all outsiders come and say hey if we do this, that or invest in this, would make life so much more easier, all you get in return is a stern get out, the “so called inuit values” are thrown in your face constantly but only followed if it suits them other 98% its ignored if it goes against what they want to do. if the companies there would run like they do anywhere else they would go out of of service within a week. the only successful places are ran by outsiders, and they are always under constant social attack, it is the same over and over, they run the place, going under bring in outsider, gets fixed, they make them leave, put another indian in charge, they go under just repeat after repeat.

  6. More proof that algorithms are opinions expressed through math and given a scientistic halo with a dodge for accountability-“hey the computer says it, not me!”
    Might as well have said Alaska is nowhere like the rest of the United States’ coastal bands of high density population. Crime is Mayberry compared to even Seattle. The cold keeps most of the weaklings and complainers away. The high cost of living levels people out, although the medical, telecom and oil people live high on the hog at everyone’s expense. And when global warming hits harder we are the refuge.

  7. Don’t know how Anchorage did not make the list. Drunk people passed out everywhere and panhandlers on just about every street corner. The police don’t want anything to do with the drunks. Anchorage hires a civilian security company to round them up and throw them into a makeshift jail each night then let them out in the morning when they sober up. I lived in Anchorage between 2007-2011. I literally had to step over drunk people in the morning to get to the bus stop and I lived in mid-town Anchorage which isn’t even the worst place. The city officials spruce up Anchorage in the summertime by hanging pretty flowers on the streetlights so the cruise ship people will come ashore and spend money but any other time Anchorage is a dump. Cars broken into all the time. The only reason most people do not leave Anchorage is because of the PFD (Permanent Fund Dividend). The PFD is where they pay their citizens money each year not to leave the Alaska. Were it not for the PFD, Anchorage and most of Alaska would be a ghost town.

  8. Petersburg would be best in summer..Love prevails..even in winter with cabin fever setting in some locals will be friends and crab season starts around Valentines day..if you are willing to work this rocks..make like 20 trillion friends in 2 days…Devils thumb mountain on mainland so we just flip finger back..island is also known as little Norway though it is actually Mitkoff island Russia so best of all worlds and hell yeah I seen that..You have Kuprenoff island to the west with friends and boats and just all is cool..it is heaven on earth it is..smells like fish coming in..but wait till you see what she has..Petersburg/Mitkoff rock for best…..Sandy beach man…

  9. Petersburg would be best in summer..Love prevails..even in winter with cabin fever setting in some locals will be friends and crab season starts around Valentines day..if you are willing to work this rocks..make like 20 trillion friends in 2 days…Devils thumb mountain on mainland so we just flip finger back..island is also known as little Norway though it is actually Mitkoff island Russia so best of all worlds and hell yeah I seen that..You have Kuprenoff island to the west with friends and boats and just all is cool..it is heaven on earth it is..smells like fish coming in..but wait till you see what she has..Petersburg/Mitkoff rock for best…..Sandy beach man…

  10. I moved from Anchorage to Wasilla last year, and boy was that the worst decision I’ve ever made. The people here are awful, the “oh so wonderful” nonprofit organizations are filled with thieves, businesses are seriously unreliable. If you’re considering moving here, don’t! I’m moving far away from here ASAP.

  11. Alaska is not special. maybe visiting once is okay. Cost of living is very high. Utilities are high. Car insurance is very high. There are a lots of Native Indians and islanders from all over the World who get paid by government (you will see them everywhere in anchorage). I have not seen so much drugs and alcohol “activity” in the USA like here. Everyone is high. Heroin is everywhere and it’s dirt cheap. Nobody is talking about kidnapped kids.

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