The 10 Worst Places To Live In Tennessee For 2021


We used science and data to determine which cities in the Volunteer State are the real pits.

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Editor’s Note: This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out we updated this article for 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the worst places to live in Tennessee.

"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 92 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:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In Tennessee For 2021

  1. Covington
  2. Ripley
  3. Morristown
  4. La Follette
  5. Sweetwater
  6. Rockwood
  7. McMinnville
  8. Millington
  9. Bolivar
  10. Dyersburg

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 Covington.

Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2021.

If you're looking for something more national, check out the worst cities in America or the worst states in America.

For more Tennessee reading, check out:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In Tennessee For 2021

Covington, TN

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 8,857
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 8)
Median Home Value: $111,800 (24th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 5.0% (49th worst)
More on Covington:  Data | Photos

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 5.0%, which is the 49th highest in Tennessee. And, as you can imagine, many of the folks in Covington live at or below the poverty line.

Ripley, TN

Overall SnackAbility

1
/10

Population: 7,947
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $86,700 (4th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 13.2% (4th worst)
More on Ripley:  Data | Photos

Welcome to Ripley, Tennessee, where more people are out of work than anywhere else in the state. 1 in 7.6 people is without a job, and families bring in a combined $33,533 a year.

Crime is the 22nd highest in Tennessee, where you have a 1 in 27.7 chance of being the victim of a property crime, and every year, you have a 1 in 66 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?

Morristown, TN

Overall SnackAbility

2
/10

Population: 29,782
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $115,900 (27th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.7% (17th worst)
More on Morristown:  Data | Photos

Come to Morristown for a taste of American History. Davy Crockett once ran a tavern in town. You can still see a recreation of the establishment at the Crockett Tavern Museum.

How about life in modern Morristown? Not so tasty. This community in the northeast part of the state, about an hour outside of Knoxville, has serious problems.

More than a quarter of the town lives below the poverty line. That comes as a result of a 7.7% unemployment rate and a $32,193 median income. Housing and education fall below expectations. Meanwhile, the crime rate more than doubles the national average.

La Follette, TN

Overall SnackAbility

2
/10

Population: 6,857
Rank Last Year: 18 (Up 14)
Median Home Value: $77,000 (worst)
Unemployment Rate: 20.4% (worst)
More on La Follette:  Data | Photos

In the late 19th century, two brothers, Harvey and Grant LaFollette, founded a coal and iron company in north-central Tennessee. It closed down a few decades later, but a town named after the businessmen survives.

So what does a town based on a 100-year-old failed business venture look like? Well, you've probably already guessed: like one of the worst communities in the state. La Follette sports a jaw-dropping unemployment rate of 20.4% and a poverty rate approaching one-third.

Still, La Follette is located in beautiful country. You can take use the town to jump on the Cumberland Trail for an unbelievable hike.

Sweetwater, TN

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 5,873
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $120,800 (28th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 8.1% (13th worst)
More on Sweetwater:  Data | Photos

Sweetwater is famous for its caves. Check out the Craighead Caverns, gateway to an underground lake known a the Lost Sea.

Life above ground doesn't hold the same kind of adventure. Rather, day-to-day existence in Sweetwater might make you want to go hide in one of those darkened caverns. The town struggles with a 8.1% unemployment rate and a $40,158 median income.

Sitting along I-75, between Knoxville and Chattanooga in the east-central part of the state, Sweetwater also faces problems related to housing, education and crime.

Rockwood, TN

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 5,423
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 4)
Median Home Value: $83,200 (3rd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.5% (25th worst)
More on Rockwood:  Data | Photos

Rockwood serves as the childhood home of Hollywood actress Megan Fox. It's lucky she got out of town.

In a parallel universe, Megan is struggling with four kids in a town where 20% of the residents live below the poverty line. She's also likely earning below $35,000 and worrying about a crime rate more than 140% above the national average. Suddenly, starring in a couple Transformers movies doesn't seem so bad.

Still, it isn't all bad in Rockwood. Watts Bar Lake is just to the south of town, offering parallel-universe Megan Fox amazing views and access to excellent water activities.

Mcminnville, TN

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 13,695
Rank Last Year: 17 (Up 10)
Median Home Value: $98,400 (12th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.9% (22nd worst)
More on Mcminnville:  Data | Photos

McMinnville likes to sell itself as the "Nursery Capital of the World." As in plants, not babies. For babies, you're probably better raising them somewhere else, given the economic realities of life in town.

Just under a third of the town's residents scrape by in sub-poverty conditions. Crime is nearly 80% higher than the national average. Meanwhile, none of the local schools score better than 6/10 on Great Schools.

All that taken into account, the Nursery Capital of the World does offer some advantages. Check out the Falcon Rest Mansion & Gardens to see the kind of picturesque settings you can find in an area known for its flowers and greenery.

Millington, TN

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 10,645
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 5)
Median Home Value: $129,000 (34th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.3% (5th worst)
More on Millington:  Data | Photos

Millington is located in the western part of Tennessee, very far away from any oceans. And yet, it serves as home for the Naval Support Activity Mid-South naval station. But don't worry...it's not like the navy got confused. The facility is used for training and support operations.

The naval station also provides an economic boost to nearby Millington, one of the reasons the town has a median income of $52,500. However, this doesn't help everyone in town. The unemployment rate still reaches double digits and the poverty rate hovers at 18.6%.

Also, having a military presence in town has done nothing to keep crime down. In fact, the crime rate runs nearly 150% above the national average.

Bolivar, TN

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 5,031
Rank Last Year: 24 (Up 15)
Median Home Value: $94,400 (8th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 20.4% (2nd worst)
More on Bolivar:  Data | Photos

Bolivar is named for a famous revolutionary, Simón Bolívar, the same guy who lends his name to the country of Bolivia. A revolution might not be necessary for this southeast Tennessee town, but it definitely could use some change.

Located about an hour and a half outside of Memphis, the economy of Bolivar resembles the proverbial dumpster fire. The unemployment rate checks in at an eye-popping 20.4%, while more than a quarter of the town lives below the poverty line.

There are some bright spots. The surrounding landscape can be breathtaking, including the nearby Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge.

Dyersburg, TN

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

2
/10

Population: 16,476
Rank Last Year: 20 (Up 10)
Median Home Value: $105,800 (19th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 8.7% (10th worst)
More on Dyersburg:  Data | Photos

Dyersburg is the largest city to make this list. And since it has the 5th highest crime rate, that means there just about more criminals per capita here than anywhere else in Tennessee.

Located a short drive from Arkansas on the I-155 corridor, Dyersburg sees 1 in 12 people within its city limits robbed every year. There was a murder here in 2021, and 1 in 64 people in town have a chance of having their lives threatened every single year.

Gives a whole new meaning to the name 'Dyersburg,' doesn't it?

It's no wonder why homes are the second cheapest in the state here. Anyone with a pulse could probably get a mortgage for a home that's worth $68,000.

How we determined the worst places to live in Tennessee for 2021

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 5,000 people were considered -- leaving 92 cities.

We then ranked each city from 1 to 92 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 -- Covington. 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, Covington ranks as the worst city to live in Tennessee for 2021.

If you're curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Tennessee:

  1. Brentwood (Pop. 42,407)
  2. Signal Mountain (Pop. 8,539)
  3. Germantown (Pop. 39,193)

For more Tennessee reading, check out:

Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Tennessee?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Covington 8,857 5.0% $111,800
2 Ripley 7,947 13.2% $86,700
3 Morristown 29,782 7.7% $115,900
4 La Follette 6,857 20.4% $77,000
5 Sweetwater 5,873 8.1% $120,800
6 Rockwood 5,423 6.5% $83,200
7 McMinnville 13,695 6.9% $98,400
8 Millington 10,645 10.3% $129,000
9 Bolivar 5,031 20.4% $94,400
10 Dyersburg 16,476 8.7% $105,800

How Is The Area In ?

43 thoughts on “The 10 Worst Places To Live In Tennessee For 2021

  1. The links you listed compare the COUNTY of Scott vs the CITY of Lafollette. Check the city of Oneida vs Lafollette. Also, I think Campbell county, comparing apples to apples, is around 40000 in population.

  2. Most of the crime is created by the “war on drugs”. If pain management drugs (both legal and illegal) weren’t an entire black market economy then people wouldn’t be getting robbed and burglarized all the time. Appalachia better face its drug problem.

  3. Where is East Tennessee on that list? Are the towns so small that they just don’t qualify? Education there is dismal (secondary schools). Crime also is a problem there. This list seems to be unfairly skewed toward West Tennessee.

      1. What I found strange is the average home price….. Very far from the truth, not many homes in LaFollette for 80 k so that is simply not true! What year was this made? 30 yrs ago maybe. Drugs are at their meanest but aren’t they everywhere? Med household income well I have two adult’s son’s both of them have an average income way higher than what they have listed! So….. Who really cares what /when this list was compiled? Not me! Smile/Be Happy!

    1. I agree, I’m not sure as to how bad really Covington is, but i do know my husband & I loveit in this small country town…..
      To us it’s not bad at all…..

    1. Humboldt, Tn. has some wonderful people who rise every day as if it were a land of grand opportunity. Cynics most likely will find garbage everywhere they live. To speak of a place you lived as “enema of the state” is pathetic. However, sometimes a change of place for some is good. Yet you need not demonize the place you lived.

      1. What about clarksville im thinking of moving out there from glendale az to reunite with my brothers and my biological mom.

        1. Hello I live in Surprise, AZ and some parts of Glendale are very nice. Although the HEAT during the summer months are over 105 and can get as high as 115.
          It is a dry heat but just make sure you hydrate. During the winter there are time you can wear shorts and flip flops.

  4. Obviously incorrect. Education in Covington is great. It has actually been voted best public highschool in TN. And a Bronze award for top 100 in the US.

    1. I agree, our neighbors that have kids still in school, they are doing great & on the honor roll….if it was that bad, i don’t believe theywould be on it…..

  5. You should be ashamed to publish these facts about our city. I am the Mayor of Humboldt Tn. and have numerous calls about your so called poll of cities in Tennessee. You don’t know anything about Humboldt and you have caused much embarrassment to us. Please stop your comments about our wonderful city. People like you can harm a city like Humboldt way past anything I can repair..Shame on you !!!!
    Mayor Marvin Siles

    1. Facts are facts mayor. To bad you can’t fix what has long been broken in this as you put it so “wonderful city”. Take another payoff and keep living your corrupt dream as a big fish in the kiddie pool of life!

    2. Ditto, Mr. Mayor, the cherry pie city an residents that convinced me to stay at MTSU, focus on my grades and quit worrying about the draft. My landlords, I was a renter, and they cared enough to treat me like family. Thank you Humboldt, dont ever change, “You House by the Side of the Road”; that was 50yrs. ago, and I remember it like it was yesterday. You have no clue about family til you go home!!!

  6. Right about LaFollette. This is dead on. Lived there 36 years and finally moved away and can breath! Until the politicians and their bosses(the people with the cash) are evicted, it will remain number one.

  7. I live in Lafollette it is a small town I hate it when people consider it to be the worst when the only thing wrong with Lafollette is that the people in charge won’t let good businesses come in it the picture don’t even do Lafollette justice I have lived in towns with good jobs but it costs a lot to live there Lafollette is the cheapest place to live you people are in no way able to judge Lafollette so until you get your facts straight try not being judgemental ok

  8. I think Newport should be number 1,their cops are crooked the schools lets kids learn from other kids sexual gestures and if you can pay them off you can get away with anything they take kids away from loving parents for money…THE JUSTICE DEP.NEEDS TO INVESTIGATE!!

  9. I live in Knoxville. Like any city we have our fair share of crime. Some areas have more than others. I’ve lived here all my life. Moved away to bigger city’s, but always come home to East Tennessee. Love my Knoxville, my blood is Orange. Can’t imagine living any where else except, Dallas Texas. Love the city life, Knoxville is the best place to be,

  10. Harriman should also be on this list as it is for red neck list. Harriman utilities are the most expensive in Roane county. There’s nothing going for Harriman. The school system is a joke as all the money and programs go to Kingston. The prescription drug problem runs rampant in the streets. How in the world did Harriman win the best town in Roane is beyond me?

  11. Lawrenceburg is not so bad like they are trying to put it amd the picture really take one of the buildings that’s not being torn down for new ones or being repaired. Actually take a picture of our town and not criticize in a place I’m sure you have never lived more less probably never been to. This is a great place but like all places you have your certain people and there is nothing anyone can do about it bc thieves are goin to steal and drug addicts are going to keep doing drugs no matter where they live or where they are from. This is America and we should be proud and love each and everyone of our states and counties and small towns. God blessed us and people like this need to move to another country then come back and say something. Rant over

  12. I don’t know why they say Covington is that bad of a city/town…..
    My husband & I moved here last year & believe me from the town we moved from in Georgia, it is much worse there….
    We love it here in Tenn, everyone is soooo very friendly, no matter the age…..
    We are very thankful to be here & have such wonderful caring neighbors……
    I hate that this is making Covington out to be a bad town…..
    Have a blessed day….

  13. I live outside the city limits of Humboldt Tennessee before this I lived in Humboldt all my life. I don’t know where you get your info but it is wrong. How dare you demean a town that you know nothing about. This is one of the most disgusting pieces of crap ever put out. I rather live here than any place I know of so keep your info to yourself..

  14. Come on! I’m originally from Chicago and live in Sweetwater. If you want to talk crime, check out Illinois. I know people here that don’t even lock their doors! Also, there are plenty of fun things to do here. If you need “city” life, we are between Chattanooga and Knoxville. Seems like something is wrong with your facts. Cost of living isn’t as high here and there are plenty of jobs nearby.

  15. Livingston in the last 10 years under a black mayor has gone downhill since he has been the man. The back streets look like downtown detroit . only the square looks decent

  16. I moved to Lake Tansi from Southern California and retired here . Bought a home I never woulda have been able to there. It’s real quiet here and bein part of Crossville I don’t see how it ranks at #12.

  17. I’m considering moving to Tennessee from Michigan. Reading the various lists have me concerned as I have a little one to think about and safety and education are my top priority. I currently live in a metropolitan area where 30 minutes drive can find Detroit……to some extremely wealthy, beautiful areas.
    In the early 2000’s I loved going to Tennessee and renting a cabin in the mountains and being away from it all. Small towns like Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge were my favorite. Now I’d like to find somewhere safe and quiet to raise my little one.
    So much to consider and learn about!

  18. I currently live in Dallas Tx and am planning on moving to East Tennessee. Don’t know which town yet. I understand everybody gets frustrated where they live. I’ve lived here in Dallas for 36 years and I’m done. Tired of the traffic!!!! So I’m looking at Knoxville or Maryville or Farragut or Sevierville.

  19. Do not come to Cleveland TN the ppl are rude lots of drugs, meth, and poverty for the bible buckle of the belt I belive this place is cursed, I can’t belive it’s not on this list the building’s or should I say ruins of Cleveland says it all not much for job opportunitys beware if you arnt apart of a click you will get no where here lots of greed to…

    1. Being a resident of Morristown, I’m concerned your review came from a police officer that happens to live elsewhere. I find that peculiar. As for Morristown being #5 worst, I beg to differ. Perhaps you should talk to the kind folks there that appreciate the diversity.
      Morristown is a great place to live.

  20. I seriously question your data. Union City, population 10K+ did not appear on the list. Sloppy science.

  21. These lists serve no real purpose and only exist to get under people’s skin.
    These are statistics only and dont tell even a small part of the true story of these places. Of which I have been to all.
    Lots of things can skew these stats and if you want to know about these towns then go visit them.
    I know the data on education has changed significantly since this list was published. I am sure the crime info has as well. Every town has some level of corruption. Every town. But hey also have numerous things that you dont mention. I suppose because there is not a stat. I feel sorry for anyone would take your data and make any kind of decision(or perception) based on that.
    Just because you have these perceptions of these places gives you no better right to “review” them than a man on Mars. If you really had knowledge of these towns you wouldnt publish this list. You obviously arent from and if you are you have have an agenda. Yes you have your stats on paper but life isnt lived on paper and “everything” is more complex. The heart of a town cant be measured in numbers.

  22. Our State Flag really says it all. 3 stars=3 almost different states in one border. My area (east TN) is as different from west TN as night is to day; and pretty different from middle TN. So to be accurate in your assessments you probably should have three separate groupings. Heck, we even have our own language here almost. Not just a different dialect but words you don’t even hear anywhere else. Y’uns thank ya Tigger at un out? My Papaw’s name was Enos and my Mamaw Daisy Lee.

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