“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 31 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:
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. Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2017.
How we determined the worst places to live in Montana for 2017
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 31 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 31 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.
This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased.
Population: 3,754Home Values: $93,800 (3rd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 12.6% (1st worst)
About three or four beers east of Billings is the small town of Hardin. Here, the unemployment rate is sky high at 12.6%, which is the 1st 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.
Population: 2,671Home Values: $99,600 (4th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 11.8% (3rd worst)
LIttle Libby is having a hard time, at least when you look at the data. More than 11.8% of the people here are unemployed, and 16.1% 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.
Population: 4,643Home Values: $166,400 (18th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 11.5% (4th worst)
If you live in Montana, you may or may not be surprised that Polson ranked, at least on paper, as the 3rd worst place to live in the state. It has the 4th highest unemployment rate in the state, and the 2nd most dangerous.
Incidentally, Polson is the 6th most densely populated city in Montana. Draw your own conclusions.
Population: 4,501Home Values: $169,100 (21st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 4.8% (14th worst)
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 $27,907 a year, and 15.3% of them live below the poverty line. Plus, in Montana terms, the crime rate is really high. Residents here have a 1 in 28.1 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 173 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.
Population: 3,272Home Values: $125,700 (9th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 4.2% (19th worst)
Shelby ranks as the 5th worst city on this list.
Shelby has the 8th highest crime rate in Montana, where residents have a 1 in 25.7 chance of being robbed every year. Homes are the 9th cheapest in the state ($125,700), and the uninsured rate here is far below average as well.
Population: 2,048 Home Values: $162,600 (16th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 12.5% (2nd worst)
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 102.4 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.
7. Cut Bank
Population: 2,985Home Values: $125,500 (8th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 4.4% (17th worst)
When you’re looking at the worst places you could live in Montana, Cut Bank came in 7th. Let’s see why.
When you’re comparing the unemployment rate to the rest of the nation, Montana residents are very hard workers. But when comparing the unemployment rate among cities in Montana, you can see some really big differences. In Cut Bank, the number of people out of work is 4.4%
In Montana, that’s the 17th highest in the state.
The residents in Cut Bank have the 6th lowest incomes in the state. Folks in Cut Bank average $34,833 a year. Which isn’t too shabby in comparison to the other ‘lowest’ income cities in most other states.
Additionally, the homes are valued at $125,500 on average. That’s the 8th lowest in the state.
8. Wolf Point
Population: 2,755Home Values: $83,300 (1st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 3.2% (22nd worst)
Wolf Point is another place in the Treasure State that has some real eye-opening numbers. The unemployment rate in Wolf Point is a staggering 3.2%, but at least those who have jobs earn a modest salary ($34,013 a year). Homes are actually priced respectfully at $83,300, but still far lower than the state average.
Crime in Wolf Point is bad, but not horrible.
9. Deer Lodge
Population: 3,056Home Values: $92,700 (2nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 1.7% (29th worst)
Deer Lodge has a 1.7% unemployment rate (29th in MT), below average income levels and the 13th highest crime rate in the state.
This random City-Data comment sums up Deer Lodge.
“I visited Deer Lodge over the weekend and I have to say the place just seemed completely depressing.
“I saw lots people around Deer Lodge 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.”
Population: 5,284Home Values: $158,000 (14th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 2.9% (24th worst)
The same problems that plague other cities on the list also affect Glendive. The only real difference is Glendive is a tiny bit safer, and the schools are rated a lot higher in terms of resources for students.
However, the unemployment rate in Glendive is at 2.9%, which is the 24th worst in Montana. And households earn a combined $41,250 a year, which is far below the state average. An average home in Glendive is merely $158,000.
Glendive is across the Tangier Sound on Route 50.
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 2017.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Montana:
- Colstrip (Pop. 2,289)
- Bozeman (Pop. 40,319)
- East Helena (Pop. 2,306)
For more Montana reading , check out:
- These Are The 10 Fastest Growing Cities In Montana
- These Are The 10 Snobbiest Places In Montana
- 37 Pictures of Montana That Will Make You Wish You Lived There
Detailed List Of The Worst Cities In Montana