These Are The 10 Worst Cities In Montana For 2017

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

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This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out that we updated it for 2017.

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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 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:

  1. Hardin
  2. Libby
  3. Polson
  4. Hamilton
  5. Shelby
  6. Stevensville
  7. Cut Bank
  8. Wolf Point
  9. Deer Lodge
  10. Glendive (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. Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2017.

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

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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.

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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.

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1. Hardin

Hardin, Montana

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 3,754
Home 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.

2. Libby

Libby, Montana

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 2,671
Home 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.

3. Polson

Polson, Montana

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 4,643
Home 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.

4. Hamilton

Hamilton, Montana

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 4,501
Home 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.

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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.

5. Shelby

Shelby, Montana

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 3,272
Home 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.

6. Stevensville

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

Cut Bank, Montana

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 2,985
Home 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

Wolf Point, Montana

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 2,755
Home 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

Deer Lodge, Montana

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 3,056
Home 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.

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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.”

10. Glendive

Glendive, Montana

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 5,284
Home 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:

  1. Colstrip (Pop. 2,289)
  2. Bozeman (Pop. 40,319)
  3. East Helena (Pop. 2,306)

For more Montana reading , check out:

Detailed List Of The Worst Cities In Montana

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Hardin 3,754 12.6% $93,800
2 Libby 2,671 11.8% $99,600
3 Polson 4,643 11.5% $166,400
4 Hamilton 4,501 4.8% $169,100
5 Shelby 3,272 4.2% $125,700
6 Stevensville 2,048 12.5% $162,600
7 Cut Bank 2,985 4.4% $125,500
8 Wolf Point 2,755 3.2% $83,300
9 Deer Lodge 3,056 1.7% $92,700
10 Glendive 5,284 2.9% $158,000
11 Kalispell 21,142 7.4% $186,700
12 Great Falls 59,563 5.2% $160,900
13 Conrad 2,604 2.9% $104,900
14 Missoula 69,190 8.5% $238,200
15 Livingston 7,136 3.9% $170,400
16 Red Lodge 2,236 0.0% $225,000
17 Billings 108,134 3.9% $191,200
18 Lewistown 5,883 2.3% $105,800
19 Columbia Falls 4,856 4.5% $168,300
20 Havre 9,790 2.3% $134,400
21 Belgrade 7,738 5.6% $198,800
22 Helena 29,600 4.5% $205,500
23 Sidney 6,216 2.8% $167,200
24 Whitefish 6,692 6.0% $275,200
25 Dillon 4,193 9.8% $120,600
26 Columbus 2,181 8.4% $169,400
27 Laurel 6,933 3.2% $151,900
28 Glasgow 3,376 1.6% $134,400
29 East Helena 2,306 4.2% $162,600
30 Bozeman 40,319 7.4% $259,800
31 Colstrip 2,289 5.9% $131,800

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18 thoughts on “These Are The 10 Worst Cities In Montana For 2017

  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.

  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.

  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.

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