These Are The 10 Worst Places To Live In Montana For 2019


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 2019. This is our fifth 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 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:

  1. Polson (Photos)
  2. Hardin (Photos)
  3. Malta
  4. Shelby (Photos)
  5. Hamilton (Photos)
  6. Cut Bank (Photos)
  7. Wolf Point (Photos)
  8. Libby (Photos)
  9. Townsend (Photos)
  10. 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.

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:

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

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 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.

Polson, MT

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 4,702
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $174,600 (22nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.3% (3rd worst)
More on Polson:  Data | Photos

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.

Hardin, MT

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 3,812
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $111,800 (3rd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.5% (4th 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 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.

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 2,000
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, MT

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 3,194
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $136,900 (10th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 1.4% (32nd worst)
More on Shelby:  Data | Photos

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.

Hamilton, MT

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 4,570
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $171,200 (20th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 4.3% (16th 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 $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.

Cut Bank, MT

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 3,009
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $120,800 (8th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 4.6% (14th worst)
More on Cut Bank:  Data | Photos

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.

Wolf Point, MT

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 2,792
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 3)
Median Home Value: $107,100 (2nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.1% (8th worst)
More on Wolf Point:  Data | Photos

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.

Libby, MT

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 2,664
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 4)
Median Home Value: $103,200 (1st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 12.8% (1st worst)
More on Libby:  Data | Photos

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.

Townsend, MT

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 2,000
Rank Last Year:
Median Home Value: $141,200 (13th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 2.3% (27th worst)
More on Townsend:  Data | Photos

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.

Three Forks, MT

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 2,046
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $186,000 (24th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 3.8% (21st worst)
More on Three Forks:  Data | Photos

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:

  1. Conrad (Pop. 2,841)
  2. Colstrip (Pop. 2,253)
  3. Glasgow (Pop. 3,361)

For more Montana reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Worst Places To Live In Montana

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Polson 4,702 10.3% $174,600
2 Hardin 3,812 9.5% $111,800
3 Malta 2,000 11.0% $120,200
4 Shelby 3,194 1.4% $136,900
5 Hamilton 4,570 4.3% $171,200
6 Cut Bank 3,009 4.6% $120,800
7 Wolf Point 2,792 6.1% $107,100
8 Libby 2,664 12.8% $103,200
9 Townsend 2,000 2.3% $141,200
10 Three Forks 2,046 3.8% $186,000
11 Stevensville 2,020 5.0% $160,800
12 Deer Lodge 3,015 1.7% $113,000
13 Missoula 70,847 6.2% $253,100
14 Great Falls 59,144 4.6% $165,900
15 Billings 109,082 3.4% $206,100
16 Havre 9,763 6.1% $134,700
17 Kalispell 21,992 4.0% $205,500
18 Livingston 7,294 2.0% $196,800
19 East Helena 2,265 4.8% $163,600
20 Sidney 6,491 2.0% $209,000
21 Dillon 4,224 4.9% $156,000
22 Belgrade 8,026 3.8% $209,700
23 Lewistown 5,942 2.8% $116,300
24 Red Lodge 2,349 0.0% $224,700
25 Helena 30,345 3.2% $220,100
26 Columbia Falls 5,054 3.6% $183,200
27 Columbus 2,320 8.0% $171,600
28 Bozeman 43,132 5.1% $310,800
29 Laurel 6,885 3.9% $165,900
30 Glendive 5,285 1.0% $155,800
31 Whitefish 7,070 3.8% $326,100
32 Conrad 2,841 1.9% $118,000
33 Colstrip 2,253 5.0% $137,500
34 Glasgow 3,361 4.3% $140,800

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26 thoughts on “These Are The 10 Worst Places To Live In Montana For 2019

  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.

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