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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 21 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 Houston.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2020.
For more Alaska reading, check out:
The 10 Worst Places To Live In Alaska For 2020
Here in Houston, you have some of the highest crime and the highest unemployment rates in Alaska. That's not a good combination.
Located in Matanuska-Susitna Borough, you have a 1 in 15.2 chance of being the victim of a property crime when inside Houston city limits every year. Some of those crimes might be due to the relatively high unemployment rate (17.0%). That's good for the highest unemployment rate in Alaska.
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 8.9%, and crime is above average.
Wasilla has a 10.9% unemployment rate (2nd in AK), below average income levels and the 4th highest crime rate in the state.
This random City-Data comment sums up Wasilla.
"I visited Wasilla over the weekend and I have to say the place just seemed completely depressing.
"I saw lots people around Wasilla who looked...well bad. Like former alcoholics and drug addicts.
"And what's with the poorish looking area, where there were a lot of people in run down homes?
"Just looked sad."
Kotzebue takes the 4th worst place spot on this list for a number of reasons -- below average education, income, unemployment, and student expenditure statistics.
But what gives Kotzebue its main thrust toward the top of this shameful list is its crime index -- the 2nd worst in the whole state.
The same problems that plague other cities on the list also affect Palmer. The only real difference is Palmer is a tiny bit safer, and the schools are rated a lot higher in terms of resources for students.
However, the unemployment rate in Palmer is at 10.8%, which is the 3rd worst in Alaska. And households earn a combined $60,350 a year, which is far below the state average. An average home in Palmer is merely $204,300.
Palmer is across the Tangier Sound on Route 50.
Ketchikan ranks as the 6th worst city on this list.
Ketchikan has the 6th highest crime rate in Alaska, where residents have a 1 in 20.1 chance of being robbed every year. Homes are the 11th cheapest in the state ($237,700), and the uninsured rate here is far below average as well.
This may or may not be a surprise to you, but Kodiak is the 7th most dangerous city in Alaska. For such a small city, there are an astounding number of property crimes. Residents here have a 1 in 23.6 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 Kodiak 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 Kodiak are really low. People here earn about $71,554 a year per household.
Additionally, the public schools in Kodiak 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 Kodiak.
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 13th highest in the state here. Is that a surprise? You have a 1 in 70 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.
When you're looking at the worst places you could live in Alaska, Bethel ranks 9th worst. Let's see why.
Here in Bethel, crime is the 17th highest in the state, and 1 out of 112.7 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 64 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 Bethel have the 8th highest drop out rate. And other factors that make Bethel undesirable are the low median incomes and home prices.
The unemployment rate is the 6th highest in Alaska, at 9.0%. That's actually on par with the national average, which means Alaska has some hard workers.
When you're looking at things from purely a scientific standpoint, Sitka is the 10th worst place in the state of Alaska.
The U.S. defines the poverty line at $24,600 a year for a family of four. Sitka is right on the verge of that when you look at what the average citizen there earns a year. And the home values are eye-opening low. On average, the home value in Sitka are the 2lowest in the entire state.
And when you factor in high crime and a high tax rate, it really can't get much worse in Alaska.
How we determined the worst places to live in Alaska for 2020
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 21 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 21 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. 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, Houston ranks as the worst city to live in Alaska for 2020.
If you're curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Alaska:
- Seward (Pop. 2,770)
- Valdez (Pop. 3,870)
- Cordova (Pop. 3,055)
For more Alaska reading, check out:
- Best Places To Retire In Alaska
- Richest Cities In Alaska
- Safest Places In Alaska
- Best Cities For Singles In Alaska
Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Alaska?