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:
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.
For more Kentucky reading, check out:
- Best Places To Live In Kentucky
- Cheapest Places To Live In Kentucky
- Most Dangerous Cities In Kentucky
The 10 Worst Places To Live In Kentucky For 2021
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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
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:
- Fort Wright (Pop. 5,745)
- Edgewood (Pop. 8,745)
- Fort Thomas (Pop. 16,308)
For more Kentucky reading, check out:
Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Kentucky?