“Welcome to Montana. Now leave.”
That should be the state motto.
Montana is truly one of the nation’s gems. One of the most beautiful states in all the land, you could get lost there for months and not even care. At least, the truly adventurous could.
A bunch of tough, hard-working, meat-eating, and all-around friendly bunch of folks, they’ll welcome you with open arms as long as you act respectfully and keep their state awesome.
You could do a lot worse when you pick a place to live, that’s for sure.
But is it all good in Big Sky Country? Of course not. Just like every other state, Montana 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 Montana your home.
After analyzing 34 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 Montana:
- Polson (Photos)
- Hardin (Photos)
- Shelby (Photos)
- Hamilton (Photos)
- Cut Bank (Photos)
- Wolf Point (Photos)
- Libby (Photos)
- Townsend (Photos)
- Three Forks (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. And the worst place to live in Montana? That would be Polson.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2019.
For more Montana reading, check out:
- 10 Best Places To Live In Montana
- 10 Cheapest Places To Live In Montana
- 10 Most Dangerous Cities In Montana
How we determined the worst places to live in Montana for 2019
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 34 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 34 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 Montana — Polson. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in Montana.
This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased.
Here in Polson, you have some of the highest crime and the highest unemployment rates in Montana. That’s not a good combination.
Located in Lake County, you have a 1 in 15.3 chance of being the victim of a property crime when inside Polson city limits every year. Some of those crimes might be due to the relatively high unemployment rate (10.3%). That’s good for the 3rd highest unemployment rate in Montana.
About three or four beers east of Billings is the small town of Hardin. Here, the unemployment rate is sky high at 9.5%, which is the 4th highest in Montana. As you might guess, the families here are bringing in less than it takes to be comfortable, at least for what most people would consider a decent living.
And, like we’re seeing in other towns with economic issues, the crime is far above the norm for Montana.
Rank Last Year: –
Median Home Value: $120,200 (7th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 11.0% (2nd worst)
More on Malta: Data
When you’re looking at the worst places you could live in Montana, Malta ranks 3rd worst. Let’s see why.
Here in Malta, crime is the 8th highest in the state, and 1 out of 25.5 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 234 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 Montana, the folks in Malta have the 4th highest drop out rate. And other factors that make Malta undesirable are the low median incomes and home prices.
The unemployment rate is the 2nd highest in Montana, at 11.0%. That’s actually on par with the national average, which means Montana has some hard workers.
Shelby, part of Toole County, is the 4th worst place to live in Montana for 2019.
. Residents here earn almost the lowest salaries per year relative to any other residents in the state at $39,868, and crime 8th worst in Montana.
Additionally, the poverty level is 15.2% in Shelby.
South of Missoula on Route 93 is the beautiful city of Hamilton, tucked away at the base of the Bitterroot Mountains. However, while people here might ‘hack out a living’ to a certain extent, the economic outlook here is pretty bleak.
The average household brings in about $29,799 a year, and 21.7% of them live below the poverty line. Plus, in Montana terms, the crime rate is really high. Residents here have a 1 in 28.9 chance of being the victim of a property crime, meaning car and home break ins and other thefts. We’re pretty sure Montana people know how to handle a gun.
Additionally, you have a 1 in 207 chance of being the victim of an attack, rape or outright murdered when you’re within Hamilton city limits.
Perhaps they need to lay down the law more aggressively out here.
The city of Cut Bank is the 6th worst place you can live in the state of Montana in 2019.
It’s unlucky for Cut Bank, which has the 14th highest unemployment rate (4.6%), the 8th lowest household incomes ($38,229) and the 8th lowest home prices in the state ($120,800).
Basically, a lot of people in Cut Bank 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 Montana.
What the heck is going on in little Wolf Point? The crime is the 13th highest in the state of Montana. Here, residents have a 1 in 32.8 chance of being robbed. That means if you live here, and didn’t have something stolen from you, there’s a good chance your neighbor did.
That ratio is one of the highest we’ve seen in the nation. Perhaps the high unemployment rate has something to do with it. More than 6.1% of Wolf Point residents were without jobs in the latest numbers we collected, which is the 8th highest in the state.
LIttle Libby is having a hard time, at least when you look at the data. More than 12.8% of the people here are unemployed, and 14.9% live below the poverty line. The area was largely supported by logging and mining, which have since closed down. Tourism has helped the locals make up for that loss in jobs.
Additionally, the area around Libby has been dealing with a Superfund clean up for the last 15 years. Apparently, the soil is contaminated, and there have been major medical concerns as a result.
Beyond these facts, the schools are poorly rated and crime is above average, even way out here.
Libby is on Route 2 near the Idaho panhandle.
Things are starting to get progressively more ‘modern’ and in line with what you expect in a great state such as Montana when we get to Townsend. Sure, the unemployment rate is at 2.3% (which is really high), and the median income is $49,012. But the homes are at least above the $100,000 mark, and the schools aren’t a complete mess.
Out of all the places to live in Montana, Three Forks ranks as the 10th worst — not something to brag about.
Three Forks’s unemployment rate stands at 3.8%. While the income levels out here are some of the lowest in the state. Residents earn a combined $53,750 a year in salaries. That’s not enough to really get ahead in life.
Additionally, the homes are the 24th cheapest in the entire state at $186,000. Again, some people like the cheap cost of living, but housing is priced on demand, and the fact is, there’s not a lot of demand to live way out in Three Forks. Plus, what do you do for fun here anyway?
Crime is the 16th worst in the state. You have a 1 in 37.7 chance of being robbed here and a 1 in 331 chance of being attacked or raped. Yikes.
Wrapping Up The Worst In Montana
If you’re looking at areas in Montana 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, Polson ranks as the worst city to live in Montana for 2019.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Montana:
- Conrad (Pop. 2,841)
- Colstrip (Pop. 2,253)
- Glasgow (Pop. 3,361)
For more Montana reading, check out:
- These Are The 10 Best Places To Retire In Montana
- These Are The 10 Richest Cities In Montana
- 10 Safest Places In Montana
- 10 Best Cities For Singles In Montana
Detailed List Of The Worst Places To Live In Montana