‘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:
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.
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
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.
Population: 3,803Rank 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.
Population: 4,674Rank 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%.
Population: 2,674Rank 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
Population: 2,993Rank 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%.
Population: 4,539Rank 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
Population: 2,801Rank 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.
Population: 3,160Rank 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.
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
Population: 3,062Rank 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.
Population: 21,619Rank 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:
- Glasgow (Pop. 3,363)
- Colstrip (Pop. 2,288)
- East Helena (Pop. 2,286)
For more Montana reading, check out:
- These Are The 10 Drunkest Cities In Montana
- These Are The 10 Dumbest Cities In Montana
- If You’re From Montana This Will Be The Most Jaw-Dropping Thing You See Today. Guaranteed.
Detailed List Of The Worst Cities In Montana