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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%.
Millington, part of Shelby County, is the 3rd worst place to live in Tennessee for 2020.
Residents here earn almost the lowest salaries per year relative to any other residents in the state at $52,324, and crime 12th worst in Tennessee.
Additionally, the poverty level is 21.7% in Millington.
you're looking to live in Tennessee, Savannah might not be the best choice as it places 4th in our ranking of the worst places to live for 2020.
Savannah doesn't have the worst crime in the state, but it's sure up there. And when you factor in one of the lowest household incomes in the state and a sky high unemployment rate, Savannah may not be your first choice for a vacation.
Now we can get to some actual cities that might have some normal numbers. In this case, Morristown ranks high mainly due to the low economic numbers. Homes are the 24th cheapest in the state here at $111,900. Say what you want about low cost of living. What the data says is that cheaper homes means less demand. And there isn't a lot of demand to live in Morristown.
The median income levels here are the 14th lowest in the state of Tennessee, at $32,386. Crime is above average, but not horrible like some of the cities we'll talk about in a minute. And almost 9.0% of people in Morristown were without jobs according to the latest numbers.
Sweetwater is one of the poorest cities in the state of Tennessee. This city has 5.5% of its residents out of work, and those who have jobs earn under $40,077 a year.
Cities can be charming, but not when they are dangerous. Sweetwater has the 14th highest crime rate in Tennessee. While the numbers aren't staggering (Tennessee is a relatively safe place when you compare it to the rest of the country), it's still undesirable when you consider that there are far safer (and more stimulating) places to make your home in the Volunteer State.
Pigeon Forge has some of the same issues that the cities above have. The crime is statistically the 2nd-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 3.1%.
Additionally, 15.3% of the population lives below the poverty line.
Dunlap is a hot mess right now. There are some big economic problems here AND crime is really high. In fact, Dunlap is the 25th most dangerous place you can live in Tennessee.
Residents in Dunlap have a 1 in 21.3 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 Dunlap, where average homes are valued at only$112,200. That's the 26th-lowest in the state. But residents earn far less than in other cities, so their mortgage payments might still seem overwhelming.
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.
Sure, it's in a beautiful area, and there's lots of culture, especially in terms of music. But, if you're measuring desirability, it's the 10th worst in Tennessee.
Rockwood residents had a 1 in 17.0 chance of being the victim of a property crime. Meaning lots of stolen laptops, cell phones and sports jerseys.
The unemployment rate in Rockwood is through the roof, as more than 8.7% of the population can't get a job. At least their mortgages aren't too high; at $81,100, Rockwood has the 3rd-lowest home prices in the state of 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?