The 10 Worst Places To Live In Montana For 2020


We used science and data to determine which places in Big Sky Country are looking cloudy.

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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 2020. This is our sixth time ranking the worst places to live in Montana.

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"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 32 of the state's most populous cities (over 2,100 people), we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in the state of Montana:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In Montana For 2020

  1. Hardin
  2. Polson
  3. Cut Bank
  4. Shelby
  5. Malta
  6. Hamilton
  7. Stevensville
  8. Libby
  9. Livingston
  10. Lewistown

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 Hardin.

Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2020.

If you're looking for something more national, check out the worst cities in America or the worst states in America.

For more Montana reading, check out:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In Montana For 2020

Hardin, MT

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 3,842
Rank Last Year: 2 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $127,600 (9th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.1% (3rd worst)
More on Hardin:  Data | Photos

About three or four beers east of Billings is the small town of Hardin. Here, the unemployment rate is sky high at 10.1%, which is the 3rd 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.

Polson, MT

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 4,843
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $179,700 (21st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.7% (6th worst)
More on Polson:  Data | Photos

Polson ranks as the 2nd worst place to live in Montana for 2020.

The issues Polson has is with its local economy. The unemployment rate is the 6th highest in Montana (7.7%), and as you might expect, the household salaries and home prices are both towards the bottom of Montana.

Cut Bank, MT

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 3,007
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 3)
Median Home Value: $119,900 (7th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 4.3% (12th worst)
More on Cut Bank:  Data | Photos

Welcome to Cut Bank, which might be one of the poorest areas in Montana. Residents average $36,485 a year in combined income, which is right at the poverty line. In fact, 23.4% of Cut Bank residents live below the poverty level.

Homes here go for an average of $119,900 and the unemployment rate hovers near 4.3%.

Shelby, MT

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 3,160
Rank Last Year: 4 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $148,800 (12th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 1.3% (29th worst)
More on Shelby:  Data | Photos

Shelby is a hot mess right now. There are some big economic problems here AND crime is really high. In fact, Shelby is the 10th most dangerous place you can live in Montana.

Residents in Shelby have a 1 in 28.7 chance of being the victim of a property crime. That's a lot of stolen laptops, cell phones and sunglasses.

When you're considering home prices, you can't do much lower than in Shelby, where average homes are valued at only$148,800. That's the 12th-lowest in the state. But residents earn far less than in other cities, so their mortgage payments might still seem overwhelming.

Malta, MT

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 2,090
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $126,000 (8th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.4% (4th worst)
More on Malta:  Data | Photos

If you're looking to live in Montana, Malta might not be the best choice as it places 5th in our ranking of the worst places to live for 2020.

The unemployment rate here is 9.4%, and households bring in a combined $45,242 a year in income. That's not too far from the poverty line, even though money goes a lot further in the boonies of Montana.

Crime is the 10th highest in the state in Malta as well. Just not a very desirable place at all to make home.

Hamilton, MT

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 4,628
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $172,800 (19th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 0.7% (30th worst)
More on Hamilton:  Data | Photos

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 $30,361 a year, and 19.2% of them live below the poverty line. Plus, in Montana terms, the crime rate is really high. Residents here have a 1 in 27.2 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 220 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.

Stevensville, MT

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 2,163
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 3)
Median Home Value: $169,100 (18th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 3.7% (16th worst)
More on Stevensville:  Data | Photos

South of Missoula is the small town of Stevensville. Income levels are far lower than the state average, and the schools are some of the least funded in the state. Plus, you have a 1 in 98.3 chance of being robbed every year.

Rocker Huey Lewis has a permanent residence here now. Perhaps he'll write a song about Stevensville from his ranch one day.

Libby, MT

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 2,663
Rank Last Year: 8 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $106,100 (2nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 11.6% (2nd worst)
More on Libby:  Data | Photos

LIttle Libby is having a hard time, at least when you look at the data. More than 11.6% of the people here are unemployed, and 17.6% 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.

Livingston, MT

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 7,478
Rank Last Year: 18 (Up 9)
Median Home Value: $215,400 (26th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 3.0% (21st worst)
More on Livingston:  Data | Photos

Livingston needs some tough love.

Years ago, someone told me the sun never shines in Livingston. That's not true, of course, but you can understand why she might say that when you analyze certain facts about Livingston. Of the 32 cities considered in this ranking, Livingston had the least to be proud of across the board.

Not only does Livingston have Montana's 26th lowest home value rank, but it also had the 21st and 14th highest rankings in unemployment and crime respectively. Statistics like that will certainly make the sun shine a bit dimmer, and it will win you are in contention for title of "Worst City in Montana."

If you know anyone in Livingston, tag them on Facebook and tell them you love them. They can probably use it right about now.

Lewistown, MT

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 5,895
Rank Last Year: 21 (Up 11)
Median Home Value: $111,700 (3rd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 2.8% (22nd worst)
More on Lewistown:  Data | Photos

Here in Lewistown, you have some of the highest crime and the highest unemployment rates in Montana. That's not a good combination.

Located in Fergus County, you have a 1 in 76.6 chance of being the victim of a property crime when inside Lewistown city limits every year. Some of those crimes might be due to the relatively high unemployment rate (2.8%). That's good for the 22nd highest unemployment rate in Montana.

How we determined the worst places to live in Montana 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

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 2,000 people were considered -- leaving 32 cities.

We then ranked each city from 1 to 32 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 -- Hardin. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in Montana. 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 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, Hardin ranks as the worst city to live in Montana for 2020.

If you're curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Montana:

  1. Glendive (Pop. 5,232)
  2. Glasgow (Pop. 3,348)
  3. Colstrip (Pop. 2,446)

For more Montana reading, check out:

Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Montana?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Hardin 3,842 10.1% $127,600
2 Polson 4,843 7.7% $179,700
3 Cut Bank 3,007 4.3% $119,900
4 Shelby 3,160 1.3% $148,800
5 Malta 2,090 9.4% $126,000
6 Hamilton 4,628 0.7% $172,800
7 Stevensville 2,163 3.7% $169,100
8 Libby 2,663 11.6% $106,100
9 Livingston 7,478 3.0% $215,400
10 Lewistown 5,895 2.8% $111,700

How Is The Area In ?

31 thoughts on “The 10 Worst Places To Live In Montana For 2020

  1. You’ve probably never been to any of these towns on this list. You’re opinion is junk science with no basis. Such bullshit.

    1. Not true! Those places can be very insedious. They can be dark and dangerous and a lot of them are in or near the res. I’m surprised Butte isn’t on the list.

  2. I hope lots of people read this and believe it. I’m tired of all these people moving to my little corner of the world. Go away

    1. As long as “your” little corner is part of the America that I am a proud and legal citizen of, I will move there whenever I wish. And I will be sure to spend all of my free time harrassing YOU.

      1. I agree. I was born in the USA, my brother served in the army, my nephew has spent thousands of dollars at university of Montana, and I cannot understand the cruelty I’ve been subjected to in a town called Drummond. I am a 66-year-old Senior Lady, an out-of-stater, Slavic last name, and had to endure humiliation at a local store by someone who openly continues to do this. But, I have a solution/tactic (but won’t mention here).
        Thanks “f” for your reply, I was pleases to see it.

  3. I am from stevensville Montana and am very proud of that. I think they must have their facts backwards about all these towns I think they are some if the best towns in Montana and are wonderful.

  4. I had to read this article, when I saw the title, but the further I read the more I realized the data doesn’t lie. Don’t get all fired up, before reading this, and try to keep an open mind through out . The information stated within paints an accurate picture, of the sad socioeconomic, ecologic, and medical timeline, of what Libby (my hometown), has become, and is today. If the article was based upon the people, activities, captivating beauty, and simplicity of life Libby, and so many other locations throughout Montana, the list and the article would be a positive, and glowing review.
    I left Libby 20 years ago, one year after graduating from high school. I decided, in part, to leave because of the bleak economic outlook. I also left because of the growing health effects, linked to the mine. The environmental impact, of the W.R. Grace mines health legacy, deeply effects my life, and the lives of generations of my family.
    My friends, who live in Libby, struggle to earn money at their low paying jobs. Many of them are also dealing with negative health effects, from asbestos. They also live among others, whose lives mirror theirs, but they choose to stay. I respect every hard working resident, of Montana. I admire their hope, and perseverance to live on the land they love. Unfortunately, when looking at factual data, opinions do not compare. Don’t be angry with facts. They’re just numbers! They are an indication of the minority of Montana’s people, because the MAJORITY of the people of Montana are strong, proud, law abiding, hard working citizens. God bless Montana!

  5. I moved to Montana for 5 years. And I lived in Thompson Falls. Yes it is isolated, but it is only an hour (give or take for weather) to large cities in either direction. Also, when you are doing your research you should get your facts straight. I worked at “Little Bear” and it is an ice cream shop/ cafe/ gift store that during the summer months thrives on people from out of town and out of state. It has really good schools, and quite a few good dining options too.

  6. The data used by this author is faulty. Don’t know why you would fail to interview the residents of these communities; that may have given some informed insight into WHY the people chose to live there. Montanans will, for the most part, be pleased that you have written such a slanderous article; they don’t want the state to get too crowded. As a former resident and native of Polson, Montana, your BEST PLACES list missed Missoula, Polson, Big Fork and several other gems in the Treasure State. Faulty data leads to false conclusions. Pathetic and negative article.

  7. Bozeman is 68 out of a 92 on this list?! What a dumbass. Four corners, which is a dump, beats it LOL! It’s where people go from Bozeman when they can’t afford the real estate. I agree with Browning on your list, which should be at #1, but like others said, you have no idea what the hell you’re talking about.

  8. the article says it is opinion based…..if you want to spend the time looking at all the rates per town/ cities then go ahead and get the right facts….I love libby, yes it has its small town problems but what town doesn’t, its a good place for families..i moved here a while ago and I have stayed around, jobs are actually every where if you actually look for one…it was a retirement community when we moved here in 97 and pretty much still is….this town got a bad rep with the asbestos thing…we do not glow in the dark and here is a F.W.I we are not the only town with asbestos–we just find it a lot on the web without real info on it….

  9. I have lived in Libby for years. I have just been told I have COPD, go figure. Our founding fathers should have known that W.R. Grace was a bad idea. It is unfortunate that for reasons unknown our current fathers keep getting duped by out of state companies. If it’s to good to be true, then it is. One misstep after another has plagued the City for years. Out of state folks coming into our area with the big bucks has ruined the average newly wed couple who works at Pizza Hut from buying a home. Would any sane person plop down $250.000.00 for a 1/4 of 1/4 acre of land plus you still have to build the house ? The California people do this all the time. The out of State land developers come here, buy up god zillion acres of property, clear cut it the turn round and sell lots. Everyone should stand at the three ways to get into Libby with a jar of Vaseline telling everyone to get it over with prior to going into town.

  10. This is actually true about Kalispell (and Columbia Falls, Hungry Horse, Libby and Eureka -the only ones I’m familiar with). Lived in Kalispell for several years and don’t miss it a bit. The bad schools mean businesses have trouble hiring competent help. Seriously the average high school grad in Flathead is about the same as middle schoolers in other parts of the country (or state). Big meth problem and poverty problem, so much so that about half the kids in school have parents who are on drugs or welfare. Add the high cost of rentals and it means a lot of good families have left for greener pastures, leaving the dregs behind. Big epidemic of alcoholism among adults, probably because there’s nothing to do. If you’re interested in Montana, try Bozeman or Missoula. You’ll find better jobs, the housing is expensive but much nicer, more educated people in general and better teachers, more cultural activities.

  11. I lived in Libby from 1993-1999. Could not be more true. Huge meth problem. The people are proud; of nothing. They cannot imagine what the real world actually is. I found my peace and joy in Texas and never looked back.

  12. I’m trying to find out how much it cost to live in either Great Falls, Helena,Billings. Can you tell me witch is better and cost of living in Montana?. Thank you

  13. The things that the author writes about being bad are laughable. Compared to nation wide problems the cites stated wouldn’t even come close to be considered, “the worse”. The truth of what is bad in Montana are these three things.
    1. The entire judicial system from the courts, judicial review board and law enforcement are corrupt and out of control.
    2. The rent is so extremely high from these greedy bastard conservatives that a person has to triple up on room mates just to afford it.
    3. The third being that the wages are so low in this state that if you fart your wallet will float out of your back pocket.
    These are the real problems in Montana

  14. You are very mistaken in your conclusions because you have no idea what “science” actually is. Where did you get the idea that if the median house price is low, then there is something wrong with the town?! Falsely and inappropriately elevated real estate valuations are the largest cause of poverty in the United States, yet you complain if the home prices aren’t falsely inflated?!

    You are clearly an idiot, and that is a scientific FACT!

    1. “the collapse of marriage and erosion of the work ethic are the principal long-term causes of poverty. The collapse of marriage and erosion of the work ethic are the principal long-term causes of poverty.”
      No need to get your panties in a bind.

  15. Yikes … I’m considering buying property in the Hamilton area … have been there & love it, but I’m a little concerned now …. 1 chance out of 24 of a property crime; and, 1 in 267 chance of being the victim of an attack, rape or outright murdered when you’re within Hamilton city limits? OUCH … that sounds more like Chicago. Are you sure of these statistics? My friends that live there disagree; so, I will most likely move forward after doing some more checking.

  16. Great Falls, MT should have made the number one slot of worst places to live in the entire United States. Unless you are into depressing winters, overpriced houses jammed one on top of the other, meth, minimum wage jobs, poverty, and ignorance I would steer clear. I’m out of here as soon as my dad’s health improves. By the way, those friendly folks in Montana that the article mentioned are some of the rudest people that I have ever met. In fact, Washington state is the only place that has them beat. The friendly folks here like to drive around with “Montana is full. Go home stickers” on their dirty trucks. I can’t wait to! I wouldn’t wish this place on Satan!

  17. I am 61 years old and was born in Libby. I have spent the last 50 years living in the north end of Lincoln county in the Eureka area. Yes we have seen better times economically but have had to adjust our life styles when the logging and lumber industry collapsed because of outsiders that don’t even live in Montana, We have had to adjust to it. I miss how it was before the Libby dam was finished and I lived in the old town of Rexford. Now its just a memory of what was once a great place to love. The new town of Rexford just as well be called southern Alberta. But good, bad, or indifferent, northwest Montana is not the great place to live like it used to be because in the last 40 years too many outsiders have moved in and took it away from Montanans. They talk about the violent crime rate. We used to have maybe a murder once in 30 years. With all the people moving in, they brought big city crime with them.

  18. You are right. Maybe we have reason to be rude after so many of you outsiders moved in and took our home away from us. So please go ahead and move out. We never invited you in the beginning.

  19. The so called news reporter needed to be put in his place. If you think we are such garbage, please feel free to NOT BE IN MONTANA.

  20. Well, I moved my family to Montana from Mississippi a year ago. Jackson, Mississippi to be more precise. I have lived in Wyoming before coming up here for several years. I have never been to any of the towns in this list. My experiences in Montana have for the most part been positive. Now, I will say it has not been easy to get established here, and we have ran into some resistance. If you are expecting “The Trump economy” here be prepared to be disappointed. Maybe in the larger towns. Montana is not cheap, but fair most of the time. I have never seen a place that can ” dream up a bill” and send it to someone to pay. I will also state that I have ran into some real uneducated “hillbillies” and some people that are so dumb that words cannot describe what I am saying. Most of the people are very nice, but always a few. I have not been real impressed with the job market. We are in Central Montana near Lewistown. All these people complaining about Montana have apparently never been to ” The dirty south”. I think some of you making these negative comments have never been in other parts of the country. Montana is a great wonderful place, and I am thankful and grateful to be here.

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