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 22 of the state’s most populous cities (over 2,000 people), we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in the state of Alaska:
- Kenai (Photos)
- Bethel (Photos)
- Wasilla (Photos)
- Palmer (Photos)
- Fairbanks (Photos)
- Kodiak (Photos)
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. Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2018.
How we determined the worst places to live in Alaska for 2018
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 22 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 22 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 — Houston. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in Alaska.
This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased.
Population: 2,028Rank Last Year: 2 (Up 1)
Home Values: $175,200 (1st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 17.7% (1st worst)
You can sure expect that Houston is going to be a pretty rough place to live, it comes in 1st in our analysis. It is. In fact, Houston has the 2nd-highest crime rate in the state. Probably no surprises there.
There were 13 violent crimes here in 2015, and residents have a 1 in 17.8 chance of being the victim of a property crime. That means, most likely, if you live in Houston, either you or someone on your block had their home or car broken into last year.
You can also imagine that the economy here is in the pits — the unemployment rate sits at 17.7% which is the 1st worst in Alaska.
Population: 3,288Rank Last Year: 4 (Up 2)
Home Values: $194,900 (7th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 13.8% (3rd worst)
The city of Kotzebue is the 2nd worst place you can live in the state of Alaska in 2015.
It’s unlucky for Kotzebue, which has the 3rd highest unemployment rate (13.8%), the 19th lowest household incomes ($85,278) and the 7th lowest home prices in the state ($194,900).
Basically, a lot of people in Kotzebue are out of work. And crime is certainly a factor here as well. Although it’s not one of the most dangerous places we’ll look at, it’s in the top 20%.
Add it all up, and this is truly one of the worst places you could live in Alaska.
Population: 4,316Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 5)
Home Values: $177,800 (2nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 16.1% (2nd worst)
We’re seeing a pattern here. A small, isolated city with a bad economy. Barrow is located in North Slope Borough.
Here, the schools are way underfunded, when you compare them to the rest of Alaska. Families can barely make ends meet, and the unemployment rate (16.1%) is the 2nd highest in the state. A home here sells for $177,800, on average. That signals it’s not a desirable place to live.
Plus, crime is in the top 10%.
Population: 7,551Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 6)
Home Values: $209,400 (9th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 8.7% (11th worst)
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 8.7%, and crime is above average.
Population: 6,365Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 7)
Home Values: $255,100 (16th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.7% (9th worst)
Bethel is also a pretty crummy place to live, when you look at the numbers. Yes, we’re aware that it’s beautiful and “fun”. But that ignores important things like jobs and income.
Bethel residents earn the 15th-lowest salaries in the state. At $77,631 a year, people here most likely have a hard time getting ahead in life. And the average home costs are $255,100, which means there isn’t a lot of demand.
Crime is the 7th highest in Alaska per capita, and the unemployment rate here is 9th highest in the state, at 9.7%.
Population: 8,972Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 3)
Home Values: $231,700 (13th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 11.3% (4th worst)
Wasilla, part of Matanuska-Susitna Borough, is the 6th worst place to live in Alaska for 2015.
. Residents here earn almost the lowest salaries per year relative to any other residents in the state at $61,774, and crime 3rd worst in Alaska.
Additionally, the poverty level is 1280.0% in Wasilla.
Population: 6,572Rank Last Year: 19 (Up 12)
Home Values: $194,100 (6th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.4% (6th worst)
If you live in Palmer, you’re either going to fiercely protect your town, or you agree that it should be on this list. Either way, it doesn’t matter, because science says it’s the 7th worst place to live in the state.
You’ve got the 16th highest crime rate in Alaska, which saw 26 violent crimes last year. You have a 1 in 39.1 chance of being robbed and a 1 in 252 chance of being attacked, raped or killed here for every year you spend in the city limits of Palmer.
Plus, folks are simply out of work. Palmer sports the state’s 6th highest unemployment rate (10.4%), and families bring in a combined $59,718 a year, which is far below the state average.
No wonder homes are cheap; you can get one yourself for only $194,100.
Population: 32,578Rank Last Year: 14 (Up 6)
Home Values: $200,200 (8th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.8% (8th worst)
When you’re looking at the worst places you could live in Alaska, Fairbanks came in 8th. Let’s see why.
When you’re comparing the unemployment rate to the rest of the nation, Alaska residents are very hard workers. But when comparing the unemployment rate among cities in Alaska, you can see some really big differences. In Fairbanks, the number of people out of work is 9.8%
In Alaska, that’s the 8th highest in the state.
The residents in Fairbanks have the 4th lowest incomes in the state. Folks in Fairbanks average $56,306 a year. Which isn’t too shabby in comparison to the other ‘lowest’ income cities in most other states.
Additionally, the homes are valued at $200,200 on average. That’s the 8th lowest in the state.
Population: 2,401Rank Last Year: 13 (Up 4)
Home Values: $183,300 (3rd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.2% (15th worst)
The same problems that plague other cities on the list also affect Wrangell. The only real difference is Wrangell is a tiny bit safer, and the schools are rated a lot higher in terms of resources for students.
However, the unemployment rate in Wrangell is at 7.2%, which is the 15th worst in Alaska. And households earn a combined $52,986 a year, which is far below the state average. An average home in Wrangell is merely $183,300.
Wrangell is across the Tangier Sound on Route 50.
Population: 6,272Rank Last Year: 15 (Up 5)
Home Values: $234,000 (15th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 2.4% (21st worst)
Kodiak seems to be the have’s and have not’s. While the annual average income levels here are respectful ($67,571), about 1 in 41.7 people here are without jobs. Homes are valued at only $234,000.
But the biggest eye opener is the sheer crime here. It seems as if just about everyone in town without a job is pillaging the community. Kodiak has the 9th highest crime rate in Alaska, where 1 in 101 people has a statistic chance of being attacked, raped or murdered each year.
Plus, 1 in 23.6 people are robbed.
If you’re headed past Kodiak and stop for gas, make sure you lock your doors.
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, Houston ranks as the worst city to live in Alaska for 2018.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Alaska:
- Unalaska (Pop. 4,710)
- Cordova (Pop. 3,047)
- Sitka (Pop. 8,921)
For more Alaska reading , check out:
- If You’re From Alaska This Will Be The Funniest Thing You See All Day. No Doubt About It.
- These Are The 10 Most Boring Places To Live In Alaska
Detailed List Of The Worst Cities In Alaska