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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 Hardin.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2020.
For more Montana reading, check out:
The 10 Worst Places To Live In Montana For 2020
About three or four beers east of Billings is the small town of Hardin. Here, the unemployment rate is sky high at 10.1%, 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.
Tthe small town of Polson has the 5th lowest income levels in the entire state. At $36,272, many of the people are having trouble making ends meet, and the unemployment rate is 7.7%. Additionally, 16.6% of the population lives below the poverty line.
The cost of a home here is bottom barrell at $179,700.
At least the crime is very minimal here.
You can sure expect that Cut Bank is going to be a pretty rough place to live, it comes in 3rd in our analysis. It is. In fact, Cut Bank has the 4th-highest crime rate in the state. Probably no surprises there.
There were 25 violent crimes here in 2020, and residents have a 1 in 26.1 chance of being the victim of a property crime. That means, most likely, if you live in Cut Bank, either you or someone on your block had their home or car broken into last year.
You can also imagine that the economy here is in the pits -- the unemployment rate sits at 4.3% which is the 12th worst in Montana.
Shelby ranks as the 4th-worst place in Montana due to a variety of factors, placing in the bottom third for unemployment, median income, and crime.
On top of that, residents have the 18th-worst commute of any place in the state.
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $126,000 (8th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.4% (4th worst)
More on Malta: Data
Malta, where there's absolutely nothing to do unless you enjoy bowling, ranks as the 5th worst city in Montana.
Besides the lack of pure amenities, Malta has some real economic problems to contend with. The unemployment rate hovers near 9.4%, and families earn around $45,242 a year. It's also the 10th highest in Montana for crime, where 1 in 28.7 people gets robbed every year.
Does living in a place where people who come to visit are robbed sound like fun?
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 $30,361 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 27.2 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 220 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.
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 98.3 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.
LIttle Libby is having a hard time, at least when you look at the data. More than 11.6% of the people here are unemployed, and 17.6% 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.
When you're looking at science and data, Livingston is the worst place you can live in Montana. Let's see why.
The unemployment rate here is 3.0%. The schools are underfunded, and property values are well below the state average. A home costs $215,400, which is a sure sign of lack of demand.
You have a 1 in 35.3 chance of being the victim of some type of property crime here every year. That's not fun, either.
Livingston is a far drive south from Louisville.
Lewistown is another place in the Treasure State that has some real eye-opening numbers. The unemployment rate in Lewistown is a staggering 2.8%, but at least those who have jobs earn a modest salary ($42,247 a year). Homes are actually priced respectfully at $111,700, but still far lower than the state average.
Crime in Lewistown is bad, but not horrible.
How we determined the worst places to live in Montana for 2020
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 -- Hardin. 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, Hardin ranks as the worst city to live in Montana for 2020.
If you're curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Montana:
- Glendive (Pop. 5,232)
- Glasgow (Pop. 3,348)
- Colstrip (Pop. 2,446)
For more Montana reading, check out:
- Best Places To Retire In Montana
- Richest Cities In Montana
- Safest Places In Montana
- Best Cities For Singles In Montana
Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Montana?