The 10 Worst Places To Live In Kentucky For 2021

We used science and data to determine which places in the Bluegrass State are the real pits.

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There is nothing like Kentucky.

Songs, movies and pop culture in general have talked about Kentucky forever now. It’s got a lot of history, beauty, culture and some of the gosh darn friendliest sports fanatics in the country. If you grew up there, you’ll most likely never leave.

But is it all good in the Bluegrass State? Of course not. Just like every other state, Kentucky has its least desirable spots. The purpose of this post is to use science and data to determine which cities are the worst you could possibly live in if you make Kentucky your home .

After analyzing 75 of the state’s most populous cities (over 5,000 people), we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in Kentucky:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In Kentucky For 2021

  1. Oak Grove
  2. Mayfield
  3. Somerset
  4. Maysville
  5. Russellville
  6. Lebanon
  7. Monticello
  8. Glasgow
  9. Pikeville
  10. Paducah

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 Kentucky? That would be Oak Grove.

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 Kentucky reading, check out:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In Kentucky For 2021

Oak Grove, KY

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 7,338
Rank Last Year: 4 (Up 3)
Median Home Value: $111,800
Unemployment Rate: 11.3%
More on Oak Grove:  Data | Photos

Located along the Tennessee border in the southwest part of the state, Oak Grove went through a growth spurt in the 1990s. Over the course of the decade, the town’s population jumped nearly 150%. The number of residents sits at just 7,338, but that’s still an enormous jump.

The nearby army base, Fort Campbell, gives Oak Grove an economic boost. Unfortunately, that benefit only goes so far. The unemployment rate still sits at 11.3%, while about 1 out of 5 locals struggles below the poverty line.

The town has other problems as well. Housing and schools are poor. Meanwhile, the crime rate is about 80% above the national average.

Mayfield, KY

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 9,867
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $100,200
Unemployment Rate: 11.6%
More on Mayfield:  Data | Photos

You know you’re in trouble when your hometown is best known for its cemetery. Mayfield features the so-called Wooldridge Monuments, life-sized statues of a family seemingly marching at the grave of a 19th century local named Henry G. Wooldridge.

So the dead have a good thing going in Mayfield. What about the living? Well, for them, things in town are not as good.

More than a third of residents live below the poverty line. This comes with a 11.6% unemployment rate and a $32,289 median income. The town also has questionable schools and a troubling crime problem, with a crime rate nearly double the national average.

Somerset, KY

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 11,447
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 4)
Median Home Value: $118,800
Unemployment Rate: 9.2%
More on Somerset:  Data | Photos

Poverty plagues this small town in the south-central part of the state. In fact, 31.4% of Somerset’s 11,447 residents suffers below the poverty line. This comes as a result of a 9.2% unemployment rate and a $29,611 median income.

These financial troubles feed into other aspects of life. For example, housing and education fall below expectations as well.

Things aren’t completely grim in Somerset. There are some charms to the town’s rural location. Situated near the Daniel Boone National Forest, locals get plenty of access to outdoor recreation.

Maysville, KY

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 8,782
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $132,200
Unemployment Rate: 6.7%
More on Maysville:  Data | Photos

We’ve already listed Mayfield on this list. Well, now Maysville shows up as well. May must be a tough month in Kentucky.

For Maysville, the problem is simple: not enough good-paying jobs. The town’s median income reaches just $35,102, leading to a local poverty rate of 23.4%. Meanwhile, the crime rate stands more than 25% above the national average and the school system tops out at just a 5/10 on Great Schools.

Built across the river from the state of Ohio, Maysville has a close connection with its history. Before the Civil War, the Ohio River once marked the boundary between freedom and slavery. Maysville remembers this fact with both the Harriet Beecher Stowe Museum and the National Underground Railroad Museum.

Russellville, KY

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 7,039
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $91,600
Unemployment Rate: 11.1%
More on Russellville:  Data | Photos

Located in the southwestern part of the state, Russellville stands in largely rural section of Kentucky. There are some local manufacturing businesses, but not enough to provide jobs for the town’s 7,039 residents.

As a result, locals struggle with a lack of jobs. The unemployment rate has soared to 11.1%, leaving nearly 25% of the town below the poverty line. Without a strong tax base, other services suffer. The crime rate tops the national average and local schools can only score a 4/10 on Great Schools.

At least the area remains affordable. The cost of living is about 20% below the U.S. standard, with a median home value of $91,600.

Lebanon, KY

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,644
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 4)
Median Home Value: $92,600
Unemployment Rate: 18.2%
More on Lebanon:  Data | Photos

Don’t come to Lebanon looking for work. No one is hiring. The town’s unemployment runs an eye-popping 18.2%. Meanwhile, the median income barely tops $30,000. Is it surprising that the area sports a poverty rate of 31.8%?

With these financial problems, other aspects of local life have deteriorated as well. Housing is a major problem in town. At the same time, the schools fail to meet expectations.

Feeling a bit depressed? Well, if you need a drink, the Maker’s Mark Distillery is located nearby and the company maintains offices in town.

Monticello, KY

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 6,070
Rank Last Year: 20 (Up 13)
Median Home Value: $98,300
Unemployment Rate: 11.2%
More on Monticello:  Data | Photos

The unemployment rate in Monticello is a sky high 11.2%, which is the 4th highest in the state. Ouch.

The median income in Monticello is $31,639. That means 30.3% of the population is living below the poverty line. Crime isn’t horrible here, but you have a 1 in 50.6 chance of being the victim of a property crime when you’re within city limits every year.

Monticello is located in the southern part of the state, two hours east of Bowling Green. Unless you like to fish, there really isn’t much to do out this way.

Glasgow, KY

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 14,393
Rank Last Year: 8 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $121,600
Unemployment Rate: 8.4%
More on Glasgow:  Data | Photos

Glasgow is named after the famous city in Scotland. As a result, the area hosts the annual Scottish Highland Games. There, you can watch events like the Caber Toss, Hammer Throw, and Tug of War. Maybe, if you’re lucky, you can even taste a little haggis.

Clearly, the people of Glasgow are tough…capable, if necessary, of throwing a 19-foot pole with their bare hands. Unfortunately, life in town calls for a different kind of strength. High unemployment and low wages leave more than a quarter of the population below the poverty line. At the same time, the crime rate runs nearly 30% above the national average.

Pikeville, KY

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 6,810
Rank Last Year: 36 (Up 27)
Median Home Value: $182,500
Unemployment Rate: 5.5%
More on Pikeville:  Data | Photos

Pikeville is nestled into the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. Check out the overlook at Bob Amos Park to take in the view. Alas, all that natural beauty does nothing to help the 6,810 residents to feed their families.

A terrible economy keeps 29.2% of the town below the poverty line. The unemployment rate stands at 5.5%, while the median income comes in at $32,281. The crime rate tops the national average by more than 130%.

Meanwhile, even with these problems, real estate prices in the area are surprisingly high. The median home value hovers at $182,500.

Paducah, KY

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 24,894
Rank Last Year: 9 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $118,400
Unemployment Rate: 4.6%
More on Paducah:  Data | Photos

We know what you’re thinking: how does a town end up with a name like Paducah? Well, it has to do with an attempt by Spanish settlers to pronounce a native language, resulting in the term for locals becoming “Padoucas.” (This kind of thing happens. There’s also a Paducah, Texas, out there.)

As for the town itself, it ranks as one of the worst spots in Kentucky. Why? Well, 1 in 5 of the town’s residents struggles below the poverty line. The unemployment rate is relatively healthy, but the median income only reaches $39,266.

Located along the Ohio River on the border with that state, Paducah has its draws. For you crafty types, the The National Quilt Museum is in town.

How we determined the worst places to live in Kentucky 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 5,000 people were considered — leaving 75 cities.

We then ranked each city from 1 to 75 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 Kentucky — Oak Grove. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in Kentucky. 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 Kentucky

If you’re looking at areas in Kentucky 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, Oak Grove ranks as the worst city to live in Kentucky for 2021.

If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Kentucky:

  1. Fort Wright (Pop. 5,745)
  2. Edgewood (Pop. 8,745)
  3. Fort Thomas (Pop. 16,308)

For more Kentucky reading, check out:

Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Kentucky?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Oak Grove 7,338 11.3% $111,800
2 Mayfield 9,867 11.6% $100,200
3 Somerset 11,447 9.2% $118,800
4 Maysville 8,782 6.7% $132,200
5 Russellville 7,039 11.1% $91,600
6 Lebanon 5,644 18.2% $92,600
7 Monticello 6,070 11.2% $98,300
8 Glasgow 14,393 8.4% $121,600
9 Pikeville 6,810 5.5% $182,500
10 Paducah 24,894 4.6% $118,400
11 Covington 40,548 7.9% $111,500
12 Harrodsburg 8,418 8.9% $100,700
13 Hopkinsville 31,056 7.0% $116,600
14 Bowling Green 67,600 5.5% $161,000
15 Winchester 18,429 7.0% $128,200
16 Princeton 6,116 2.2% $79,300
17 Shively 15,726 6.3% $107,000
18 Hazard 5,046 10.1% $122,300
19 Franklin 8,835 5.0% $110,600
20 Ashland 20,626 8.6% $102,800
21 Radcliff 22,639 9.0% $129,100
22 Newport 15,123 5.6% $144,000
23 Versailles 9,215 4.9% $171,300
24 Nicholasville 30,301 7.4% $144,800
25 Williamsburg 5,260 9.8% $95,200
26 Middlesborough 9,395 8.5% $91,500
27 Leitchfield 6,807 2.8% $103,000
28 Shelbyville 16,009 3.8% $178,600
29 Mount Sterling 7,166 8.1% $128,900
30 Campbellsville 11,419 6.1% $107,300
31 Berea 15,474 4.9% $139,300
32 Richmond 35,133 7.2% $152,600
33 Henderson 28,625 5.0% $120,700
34 Paris 9,817 5.5% $127,400
35 Danville 16,730 7.0% $148,700
36 Morehead 7,653 5.0% $171,500
37 Frankfort 27,680 4.0% $130,900
38 Corbin 7,325 6.8% $104,000
39 Bardstown 13,094 5.9% $123,500
40 Shepherdsville 12,218 3.6% $144,200
41 La Grange 8,854 2.4% $169,400
42 Madisonville 18,936 7.2% $125,000
43 Cynthiana 6,312 5.6% $116,000
44 Florence 32,369 5.1% $153,700
45 London 8,059 3.3% $121,800
46 Elizabethtown 29,620 5.9% $180,000
47 Owensboro 59,536 5.4% $113,400
48 Lyndon 11,431 4.2% $191,300
49 Murray 19,171 3.7% $157,500
50 Elsmere 8,567 5.7% $111,400
51 Lawrenceburg 11,350 8.9% $131,100
52 Georgetown 33,605 3.6% $170,000
53 Vine Grove 6,106 5.1% $152,700
54 Dayton 5,496 6.0% $107,000
55 Jeffersontown 28,035 3.8% $181,500
56 Hillview 9,071 2.9% $127,200
57 Union 5,910 1.9% $263,200
58 Alexandria 9,425 4.3% $179,700
59 Flatwoods 7,160 6.2% $91,600
60 Mount Washington 14,567 3.7% $170,400
61 St. Matthews 18,161 3.1% $235,000
62 Fort Mitchell 8,257 0.5% $272,200
63 Douglass Hills 5,710 2.5% $256,300
64 Highland Heights 7,149 3.4% $108,900
65 Independence 27,683 3.0% $173,300
66 Erlanger 18,967 3.4% $136,100
67 Taylor Mill 6,763 3.4% $163,100
68 Cold Spring 6,401 3.7% $196,200
69 Middletown 7,891 3.5% $215,100
70 Villa Hills 7,449 3.1% $220,200
71 Bellevue 5,804 3.9% $136,400
72 Wilmore 6,335 3.4% $170,800
73 Fort Wright 5,745 1.9% $201,900
74 Edgewood 8,745 2.4% $225,600
75 Fort Thomas 16,308 2.9% $227,600

How Is The Area In ?

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 Kentucky.

About Nick Johnson

Nick Johnson earned his masters in Business Administration from the Drucker School At Claremont Graduate University. He has written for 39 publications across the country and ran the media relations department at Movoto, a real estate portal based in San Francisco. He has been featured in over 500 publications as an expert in real estate and as an authority on real estate trends.

Nick's the creator of the HomeSnacks YouTube channel that now has over 260,000 subscribers and is an excellent source to learn about different parts of the country.