These Are The 10 Worst Places To Live In Montana For 2018

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 2018.

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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 2,000 people), we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in the state of Montana:

  1. Hardin
  2. Polson
  3. Libby
  4. Cut Bank
  5. Hamilton
  6. Wolf Point
  7. Shelby
  8. Stevensville
  9. Deer Lodge
  10. Kalispell (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 2018.

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 2018

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.

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: 3,803
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Home Values: $107,800 (5th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 11.8% (2nd worst)
About three or four beers east of Billings is the small town of Hardin. Here, the unemployment rate is sky high at 11.8%, 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.

2. Polson

Polson, Montana

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 4,674
Rank Last Year: 3 (Up 1)
Home Values: $182,400 (24th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 11.8% (2nd worst)
Polson ranks as the 2nd worst city in Montana. Located in Lake County, Polson has the 5th lowest income levels in the state of Montana ($33,013), and some of the lowest number of doctors in the state. Crime is above average, and the unemployment rate is 11.8%.

3. Libby

Libby, Montana

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 2,674
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 1)
Home Values: $95,400 (1st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 11.8% (2nd 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 2030.0% 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.

4. Cut Bank

Cut Bank, Montana

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 2,993
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 3)
Home Values: $122,100 (7th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.7% (9th worst)
Cut Bank ranks as the 4th worst city in Montana. Located in Glacier County, Cut Bank has the 6th lowest income levels in the state of Montana ($36,542), and some of the lowest number of doctors in the state. Crime is above average, and the unemployment rate is 6.7%.

5. Hamilton

Hamilton, Montana

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 4,539
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 1)
Home Values: $165,200 (18th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.5% (10th 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 $31,845 a year, and 2010.0% of them live below the poverty line. Plus, in Montana terms, the crime rate is really high. Residents here have a 1 in 24.8 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 267 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.

6. Wolf Point

Wolf Point, Montana

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 2,801
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 2)
Home Values: $96,100 (2nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 3.8% (19th worst)
If, by some reason, you were driving through Wolf Point, after stopping to ask for directions, you may have noticed that things aren’t so peachy keen here.

It’s tough out there for people to stay afloat when their income levels are so low ($38,397) and they can’t get good jobs (3.8% unemployment rate).

Wolf Point ranks as the 6th wost place in Montana.

7. Shelby

Shelby, Montana

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 3,160
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 2)
Home Values: $136,800 (11th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 0.5% (31st worst)
Yes, every dog has a few fleas. But the crime in Shelby is actually quite atrocious. Some of the punks there who are causing trouble need a time out. It’s that simple.

Residents here have a 1 in 242 chance of being the victim of a violent crime, meaning raped, attacked or murdered. And they have a 1 in 25.1 chance of being robbed each year. That’s off the charts high.

And the unemployment rate is at 0.5%, which isn’t horrible, but the 31st-highest in the state. Plus, residents here earn about $45,285 a year in combined household income.

8. Stevensville

Population: 2,016
Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 2)
Home Values: $160,100 (14th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.1% (11th 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 72.0 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.

9. Deer Lodge

Deer Lodge, Montana

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 3,062
Rank Last Year: 9 (No Change)
Home Values: $113,400 (6th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 1.3% (30th worst)
Deer Lodge, part of Powell County, is the 9th worst place to live in Montana for 2015.

. Residents here earn almost the lowest salaries per year relative to any other residents in the state at $37,917, and crime 8th worst in Montana.

Additionally, the poverty level is 1140.0% in Deer Lodge.

10. Kalispell

Kalispell, Montana

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 21,619
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 1)
Home Values: $193,200 (25th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.4% (6th worst)
The city of.Kalispell is the largest to top this list, and it’s widely considered the commercial center for northwest Montana. And when you look at the numbers, besides some of the tiny places on Indian Reservations, it’s one of the worst places you can live in the state.

First off, if you value a good education, the schools here are rated the 7th lowest in terms of student attention. Crime is top 20 in terms of worst. While violent crimes aren’t a concern (there were 47 here in 2015), it’s the robberies that plague the area. Every year, you have a 1 in 22 chance of being robbed when you’re within Kalispell city limits.

That’s simply unacceptable for Montana standards.

The unemployment rate (6.7%) is the 12th highest in Montana, and income levels are far below state standards. 15% of the city lives below the poverty level.

Sure, it’s a beautiful, and you can ‘enjoy the outdoors’. But science doesn’t measure that.

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 2018.

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

  1. Glasgow (Pop. 3,363)
  2. Colstrip (Pop. 2,288)
  3. East Helena (Pop. 2,286)

For more Montana reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Worst Cities In Montana

City Rank Previous Rank Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
Hardin 1 1 3,803 11.8% $107,800
Polson 2 3 4,674 11.8% $182,400
Libby 3 2 2,674 11.8% $95,400
Cut Bank 4 7 2,993 6.7% $122,100
Hamilton 5 4 4,539 6.5% $165,200
Wolf Point 6 8 2,801 3.8% $96,100
Shelby 7 5 3,160 0.5% $136,800
Stevensville 8 6 2,016 6.1% $160,100
Deer Lodge 9 9 3,062 1.3% $113,400
Kalispell 10 11 21,619 7.4% $193,200
Lewistown 11 18 5,868 2.5% $104,000
Glendive 12 10 5,353 3.2% $159,300
Missoula 13 14 70,117 7.4% $241,000
Columbus 14 26 2,208 9.1% $161,200
Three Forks 15 2,083 3.5% $174,100
Havre 16 20 9,815 4.5% $136,400
Dillon 17 25 4,214 9.6% $134,800
Red Lodge 18 16 2,328 0.0% $227,900
Great Falls 19 12 59,479 5.0% $163,700
Livingston 20 15 7,210 2.2% $182,200
Conrad 21 13 2,587 2.9% $107,300
Billings 22 17 109,089 3.6% $198,300
Belgrade 23 21 7,874 5.2% $196,300
Columbia Falls 24 18 4,960 4.8% $174,400
Bozeman 25 30 41,761 6.1% $278,700
Helena 26 22 30,102 3.6% $209,500
Whitefish 27 24 6,859 5.7% $311,900
Sidney 28 23 6,407 2.3% $180,400
Laurel 29 27 6,931 3.8% $161,000
East Helena 30 29 2,286 4.8% $165,500
Colstrip 31 31 2,288 7.3% $126,500
Glasgow 32 28 3,363 3.6% $151,600

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24 thoughts on “These Are The 10 Worst Places To Live In Montana For 2018

  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.

  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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