“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:
Where are these places, you wonder? And before you get all riled up and say we’re picking on small towns in Montana, that’s not the case.
We understand there’s a lot of good in every place. For example, the best place to live in Montana is Bozeman.
However, according to data (which doesn’t measure things like beauty and ‘friendly people’), the state has far better options for making a place home. And the worst place to live in Montana? The worst place to live in Montana is Polson.
Read below to see how we crunched the numbers and how your city fared in 2023.
For more Montana reading, check out:
The 10 Worst Places To Live In Montana For 2023
Squint and the name “Polson” looks a lot like “poison.” That could adequately describe the town’s economy, which supports a median income of just $45,565 and an unemployment rate of 4.6%. This leaves nearly 1 in 5 residents to struggle below the poverty line.
These financial troubles spill over into other aspects of community life. For instance, crime tops the national average by more than 75%. Meanwhile, life in Polson is relatively expensive, with a median home price of $217,700.’
Still, there are benefits to life in Polson. The town, located on the Flathead Indian Reservation, sits along the banks of Flathead Lake, making it a great base for outdoor recreation.
About three or four beers east of Billings is the small town of Hardin. Here, the unemployment rate is sky high at 9.4%, which is the 3rd 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.
Cut Bank gets its name from a local creek. The town itself stands in the northwest part of the state, about a 40-minute drive south of the Canadian border.
For a small town (population: 3,049 people), Cut Bank has a big crime problem. In fact, the crime rate runs about double the national average. You don’t need a sociologist to tell you that poverty plays a role in this. Despite an unemployment rate of 4.4%, the community suffers a poverty rate of more than 25%.
There’s an enchanting island in the Mediterranean Sea called Malta, an ancient, mysterious outpost that sits within a shimmering sea and inspires legends like that of the Maltese Falcon. Then there’s Malta, Montana. Different vibe entirely.
This Malta stands in the north-central part of Big Sky Country, situated at the intersection of Highway 2 and Highway 191. What’s so bad about life in Malta? Well, beside not being a mysterious outpost in the Mediterranean Sea, it sports an unemployment rate of 4.5% and has schools that can’t score better than a 6/10 on Great Schools.
Still, the Montana version of Malta isn’t without its beguiling elements as well. Head over to the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum to see what we mean.
Wolf Point has significant historical significance. Lewis and Clark passed by in 1805 as part of their exploration of the area. And, even now, the town has a lot to offer. This includes the annual Wild Horse Stampede, considered the “Grandaddy of Montana Rodeos.”
Day-to-day life has its challenges though. When the rodeo isn’t in town, the economy tanks. The unemployment rate sits at 18.5% and the poverty rate hovers at 30.9%.
At the same time, safety represents a significant issue. You’d expect the home of the oldest rodeo in Montana to get a little rowdy. But a crime rate nearly 20% above the U.S. norm goes a little too far.
Methodology: How we determined the worst places to live in Montana for 2023
To figure out the worst places to live in Montana, 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 more significant weight. If you did a simple calculation of all crimes per capita, property crimes are typically 7x more common and 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 ten worst cities in Montana.
Summary: 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 little to do, this is an accurate list.
And in the end, Polson ranks as the worst city to live in Montana for 2023.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Montana:
- Dillon (Pop. 3,930)
- Glasgow (Pop. 3,192)
- Bozeman (Pop. 51,574)
For more Montana reading, check out:
Worst Places To Live In Montana?