‘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 5,100 people), we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in the state of Tennessee:
- Ripley (Photos)
- Savannah (Photos)
- La Follette (Photos)
- Harriman (Photos)
- Fayetteville (Photos)
- Lawrenceburg (Photos)
- Newport (Photos)
- Sweetwater (Photos)
- Rockwood (Photos)
- Lewisburg (Photos)
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 Tennessee 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 5,100 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.
This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased.
Population: 8,249Rank Last Year: 2 (Up 1)
Home Values: $91,600 (11th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 14.4% (6th worst)
Welcome to Ripley, Tennessee, where more people are out of work than almost anywhere else in the state. 1 in 6.9 people is without a job, and families bring in a combined $26,266 a year.
Crime is the 24th highest in Tennessee, where you have a 1 in 22.8 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 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?
Population: 7,043Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 4)
Home Values: $87,500 (6th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 18.4% (2nd worst)
Welcome to Savannah, where criminals go to make a living. Savannah has the 3rd highest crime rate in the state. When you’re within Savannah city limits, you have a 1 in 13.4 chance of being the victim of a property crime such as a car break in or home invasion robbery every year.
Plus, there were 100 violent crimes here in 2015. For a city of 7,043 people, that’s absolutely off the charts high. You have a 1 in 70 chance of being raped, attacked or killed when you’re in Savannah every year as well.
3. La Follette
Population: 7,131Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 2)
Home Values: $64,200 (1st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 11.2% (13th worst)
You might have passed through La Follette once and probably throught it seems to be a relatively quiet, clean place.
Here’s what science says about why La Follette needs some love: The unemployment rate is nearly 11.2%, residents earn about $26,920 a year, and home prices are just over $64,200. Across the board, those are in the bottom half in the state. Not absolutely horrible, but not desirable, either.
And there simply isn’t anything to do in La Follette.
Population: 6,223Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 1)
Home Values: $79,000 (4th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 16.7% (4th worst)
This may or may not be a surprise to you, but Harriman is the 38th most dangerous city in Tennessee. For such a small city, there are an astounding number of property crimes. Residents here have a 1 in 25.2 chance of being the victim of some sort of robbery when within city limits every year. That’s lots of stolen cell phones, guns, snowmobiles and lobster traps.
Besides the crime, there are a few other factors why Harriman might be one of the worst places to live. The home values here are pretty cheap. Why is that not a good thing? Because the salaries of people working in Harriman are really low. People here earn about $26,280 a year per household.
Additionally, the public schools in Harriman are some of the lowest funded in the state.
When all is said and done, you could find much more desirable places to live in Tennessee than in Harriman.
Population: 7,033Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 3)
Home Values: $96,900 (17th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 11.5% (11th worst)
When you’re looking at science and data, Fayetteville is the 5th worst place you can live in Tennessee. Let’s see why.
The unemployment rate here is 11.5%. The schools are underfunded, and property values are well below the state average. A home costs $96,900, which is a sure sign of lack of demand.
You have a 1 in 17.9 chance of being the victim of some type of property crime here every year. That’s not fun, either.
Fayetteville is a far drive south from Louisville.
Population: 10,573Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 3)
Home Values: $85,700 (5th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 12.0% (10th worst)
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 (12.0%) is the 10th highest in the state. A home here sells for $85,700, on average. That signals it’s not a desirable place to live.
Plus, crime is in the top 10%.
Population: 6,856Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 3)
Home Values: $92,400 (13th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 13.6% (7th worst)
Newport might be the most isolated place on this list. Sure, it’s beautiful out here, and if you enjoy fishing and kayaking, there’s plenty of that. But can the people here afford bait and paddles?
The average family earns $22,417 a year out here, and 3990.0% of the population is below the poverty line. Nearly 13.6% of the population is out of work.
And when you consider the crime, it’s just crazy to think of how dangerous it is to live way out here. When you’re in Newport, every year, you have a 1 in 10.8 chance of being robbed. Can you imagine? Perhaps it’s an economic factor, or the fact that the people out there are so isolated, but the fact remains, it’s the 1st most dangerous place in the state, per capita.
Population: 5,877Rank Last Year: 18 (Up 10)
Home Values: $110,200 (26th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.4% (17th worst)
If you live in Sweetwater, 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 6th highest crime rate in Tennessee, which saw 68 violent crimes last year. You have a 1 in 15.3 chance of being robbed and a 1 in 86 chance of being attacked, raped or killed here for every year you spend in the city limits of Sweetwater.
Plus, folks are simply out of work. Sweetwater sports the state’s 17th highest unemployment rate (10.4%), and families bring in a combined $38,948 a year, which is far below the state average.
No wonder homes are cheap; you can get one yourself for only $110,200.
Population: 5,443Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 1)
Home Values: $73,200 (2nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.4% (27th worst)
According to science, Rockwood is the 9th worst place you can live in Tennessee.
Let’s see why. Rockwood has the 22nd-highest crime rate in the state, surprisingly. In terms of number of crimes per person, Rockwood is certainly up there.
Factor in a very low housing cost ($73,200), and the 28th-highest unemployment rate in the state (9.4%), and across the board, Rockwood doesn’t sound like the best of the best.
Plus, there’s simply not a lot to do here (unless you count having a Walmart and a Piggly Wiggly as fun). We’re aware that people enjoy outdoor activities, but in terms of pure entertainment, you’d have to drive a ways away.
Population: 11,376Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 1)
Home Values: $92,200 (12th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 12.4% (9th worst)
Lewisburg is the 58th most dangerous place in the state of Tennessee. That’s part of the reason it’s the 10th worst place in Tennessee.
The fact remains, that when you’re within Lewisburg city limits, you have a 1 in 49.5 chance of being robbed or having something you own vandalized.Does that sound like a fun place to live?
Did you know Lewisburg also has the 9th highest unemployment rate in the state at 12.4%? Or that homes are only valued at $92,200?
Say what you want about cheap living. The fact is, homes are priced by demand, and there’s little demand to live in Lewisburg.
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 2018.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Tennessee:
- Germantown (Pop. 39,213)
- Brentwood (Pop. 40,873)
- Signal Mountain (Pop. 8,500)
For more Tennessee reading, check out:
- These Are The 10 Most Dangerous Cities In Tennessee
- 10 Small Towns In Tennessee Where You’d Never Want To Live
- These Are The 10 Drunkest Places In Tennessee
Detailed List Of The Worst Cities In Tennessee