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"Tennessee is a lot more than country music and barbecue."
Well said, random internet comment. Well said.
Tennessee has tons of history and culture. Friendly people, great food, and it's one of the most beautiful states in the nation.
You could do a lot worse when you pick a place to live, that's for sure.
But is it all good in the Volunteer State? Of course not. Just like every other state, Tennessee 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 Tennessee your home.
After analyzing 91 of the state's most populous cities (over 5,000 people), we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in the state of Tennessee:
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 Tennessee? That would be Ripley.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2020.
For more Tennessee reading, check out:
- Best Places To Live In Tennessee
- Cheapest Places To Live In Tennessee
- Most Dangerous Cities In Tennessee
The 10 Worst Places To Live In Tennessee For 2020
Welcome to Ripley, Tennessee, where more people are out of work than anywhere else in the state. 1 in 8.4 people is without a job, and families bring in a combined $31,209 a year.
Crime is the 30th highest in Tennessee, where you have a 1 in 26.0 chance of being the victim of a property crime, and every year, you have a 1 in 114 chance of being raped, attacked or murdered when you're within Ripley city limits.
Plus, they're completely isolated out here, What do you do for entertainment when you're an hour north of the nearest Memphis suburbs?
We're seeing a pattern here. A small, isolated city with a bad economy. Lawrenceburg is way down on Route 64 near the Alabama state line.
Here, the schools are way underfunded, when you compare them to the rest of Tennessee. Families can barely make ends meet, and the unemployment rate (10.1%) is the 12th highest in the state. A home here sells for $87,600, on average. That signals it's not a desirable place to live.
Plus, crime is in the top 10%.
When you're looking at the worst places you could live in Tennessee, Millington came in 3rd. Let's see why.
Located in Shelby County with a population of 10,720, Millington has the 18th highest unemployment rate in Tennessee. Crime is high for the state as well, coming in as the 12th most dangerous.
Additionally, 21.7% of the population lives below the poverty line.
Welcome to Savannah, Tennessee, where 1 in 8.7 people is without a job, and families bring in a combined $35,059 a year.
Crime is the 7th highest in Tennessee, where you have a 1 in 14.1 chance of being the victim of a property crime, and every year, you have a 1 in 85 chance of being raped, attacked or murdered when you're within Savannah city limits.
Morristown has some of the same issues that the cities above have. The crime is statistically the 23rd-highest in the state of Tennessee. And residents earn far less than it takes to live a normal life. The unemployment rank is also higher than almost every other city in the state at 9.0%.
Additionally, 27.8% of the population lives below the poverty line.
Sweetwater, TN needs a big hug right now. Residents here are underpaid, underemployed and possibly lonely.
Additionally, crime is 14th worst in the state, which is very high considering Sweetwater is so far removed from the rest of Tennessee.
If you know anyone in Sweetwater, dm them on Facebook and tell them you love them. They can probably use it right about now.
Pigeon Forge is a hot mess right now. There are some big economic problems here AND crime is really high. In fact, Pigeon Forge is the 2nd most dangerous place you can live in Tennessee.
Residents in Pigeon Forge have a 1 in 12.8 chance of being the victim of a property crime. That's a lot of stolen laptops, cell phones and sunglasses.
When you're considering home prices, you can't do much lower than in Pigeon Forge, where average homes are valued at only$163,200. That's the 63rd-lowest in the state. But residents earn far less than in other cities, so their mortgage payments might still seem overwhelming.
If you live in Dunlap, you're either going to fiercely protect your town, or you agree that it should be on this list. Either way, it doesn't matter, because science says it's the 8th worst place to live in the state.
You've got the 25th highest crime rate in Tennessee, which saw 34 violent crimes last year. You have a 1 in 21.3 chance of being robbed and a 1 in 149 chance of being attacked, raped or killed here for every year you spend in the city limits of Dunlap.
Plus, folks are simply out of work. Dunlap sports the state's 75th highest unemployment rate (3.4%), and families bring in a combined $44,773 a year, which is far below the state average.
No wonder homes are cheap; you can get one yourself for only $112,200.
Covington is just down the road from Ripley. Here, the public schools are some of the least funded in the state. If you value a good education, this isn't a place for you. Kids who attend Covington public schools see the 10th lowest spending levels in terms of per-student ratios and teacher to student ratios.
Crime is far above average here, and the unemployment rate is 7.3%, which is the 28th highest in Tennessee. And, as you can imagine, many of the folks in Covington live at or below the poverty line.
Here in Rockwood, you have some of the highest crime and the highest unemployment rates in Tennessee. That's not a good combination.
Located in Roane County, you have a 1 in 17.0 chance of being the victim of a property crime when inside Rockwood city limits every year. Some of those crimes might be due to the relatively high unemployment rate (8.7%). That's good for the 2highest unemployment rate in Tennessee.
How we determined the worst places to live in Tennessee 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 5,000 people were considered -- leaving 91 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 91 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 Tennessee -- Ripley. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in Tennessee. 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 Tennessee
If you're looking at areas in Tennessee 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, Ripley ranks as the worst city to live in Tennessee for 2020.
If you're curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Tennessee:
- Collierville (Pop. 49,610)
- Brentwood (Pop. 41,987)
- Germantown (Pop. 39,164)
For more Tennessee reading, check out:
- Best Places To Retire In Tennessee
- Richest Cities In Tennessee
- Safest Places In Tennessee
- Best Cities For Singles In Tennessee
Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Tennessee?