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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:
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 2021.
For more Montana reading, check out:
The 10 Worst Places To Live In Montana For 2021
Polson needs some tough love.
Years ago, someone told me the sun never shines in Polson. That's not true, of course, but you can understand why she might say that when you analyze certain facts about Polson. Of the 32 cities considered in this ranking, Polson had the least to be proud of across the board.
Not only does Polson have Montana's 2lowest home value rank, but it also had the 4th and 5th 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 Polson, tag them on Facebook and tell them you love them. They can probably use it right about now.
About three or four beers east of Billings is the small town of Hardin. Here, the unemployment rate is sky high at 8.8%, which is the 2nd 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.
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 90.9 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.
Say what you want about how beautiful Cut Bank might be. The fact is that the economy here is one of the worst in the state.
The unemployment rate rankss 14th highest in the state at 3.9%. Homes are the 3rd lowest priced ($108,100), and the median income per household is just a tad over $39,722.
The fact is most of the people who live here are having a hard time making ends meet, when you consider their earned incomes and lack of jobs.
Now we can get to some actual cities that might have some normal numbers. In this case, Malta ranks high mainly due to the low economic numbers. Homes are the 8th cheapest in the state here at $127,200. Say what you want about low cost of living. What the data says is that cheaper homes means less demand. And there isn't a lot of demand to live in Malta.
The median income levels here are the 9th lowest in the state of Montana, at $44,189. Crime is above average, but not horrible like some of the cities we'll talk about in a minute. And almost 8.3% of people in Malta were without jobs according to the latest numbers.
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 $32,006 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 31.9 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 262 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.
Wolf Point is just a tiny place in the middle of nowhere where people have a hard time making ends meet. Folks here earn barely more than $43,555 a year, which is barely over the poverty line. And for Montana, a 10.8% unemployment rate is really high.
Crime is also the 2highest in Montana here. Meaning people need to stop breaking into homes and start looking for jobs.
Lewistown's situation is very similar to others on the list; bottom of the barrel scores in unemployment, income, and crime, with decent education statistics keeping it from the very top of this list.
Lewistown has the 12th worst crime index of any place in Montana, and has the 6th lowest income.
LIttle Libby is having a hard time, at least when you look at the data. More than 7.7% of the people here are unemployed, and 19.1% 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.
Great Falls, MT needs a big hug right now. Residents here are underpaid, underemployed and possibly lonely.
Additionally, crime is worst in the state, which is very high considering Great Falls is so far removed from the rest of Montana.
If you know anyone in Great Falls, dm them on Facebook and tell them you love them. They can probably use it right about now.
How we determined the worst places to live in Montana for 2021
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 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 -- Polson. 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, Polson ranks as the worst city to live in Montana for 2021.
If you're curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Montana:
- Glasgow (Pop. 3,344)
- Deer Lodge (Pop. 2,934)
- Colstrip (Pop. 2,448)
For more Montana reading, check out:
Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Montana?