The 10 Worst Places To Live In Tennessee For 2020


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 2020. This is our sixth time ranking the worst places to live in Tennessee.

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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:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In Tennessee For 2020

  1. Ripley
  2. Lawrenceburg
  3. Millington
  4. Savannah
  5. Morristown
  6. Sweetwater
  7. Pigeon Forge
  8. Dunlap
  9. Covington
  10. Rockwood

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.

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 2020

Ripley, TN

Overall SnackAbility

2
/10

Population: 8,023
Rank Last Year: 4 (Up 3)
Median Home Value: $86,300 (4th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 12.0% (6th 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 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?

Lawrenceburg, TN

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 10,684
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 4)
Median Home Value: $87,600 (5th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.1% (12th worst)
More on Lawrenceburg:  Data | Photos

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, TN

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 10,720
Rank Last Year: 19 (Up 16)
Median Home Value: $118,600 (31st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.0% (18th worst)
More on Millington:  Data | Photos

Out of all the places to live in Tennessee, Millington ranks as the 3rd worst -- not something to brag about.

Millington's unemployment rate stands at 9.0%. While the income levels out here are some of the lowest in the state. Residents earn a combined $52,324 a year in salaries. That's not enough to really get ahead in life.

Additionally, the homes are the 3cheapest in the entire state at $118,600. Again, some people like the cheap cost of living, but housing is priced on demand, and the fact is, there's not a lot of demand to live way out in Millington. Plus, what do you do for fun here anyway?

Crime is the 12th worst in the state. You have a 1 in 18.3 chance of being robbed here and a 1 in 106 chance of being attacked or raped. Yikes.

Savannah, TN

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 6,964
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $109,300 (23rd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 11.5% (7th worst)
More on Savannah:  Data | Photos

If 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.

The unemployment rate here is 11.5%, and households bring in a combined $35,059 a year in income. That's not too far from the poverty line, even though money goes a lot further in the boonies of Tennessee.

Crime is the 7th highest in the state in Savannah as well. Just not a very desirable place at all to make home.

Morristown, TN

Overall SnackAbility

2
/10

Population: 29,547
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 5)
Median Home Value: $111,900 (24th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.0% (17th worst)
More on Morristown:  Data | Photos

Here in Morristown, you have some of the highest crime and the highest unemployment rates in Tennessee. That's not a good combination.

Located in Hamblen County, you have a 1 in 21.3 chance of being the victim of a property crime when inside Morristown city limits every year. Some of those crimes might be due to the relatively high unemployment rate (9.0%). That's good for the 17th highest unemployment rate in Tennessee.

Sweetwater, TN

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 5,870
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 4)
Median Home Value: $123,100 (34th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 5.5% (49th worst)
More on Sweetwater:  Data | Photos

you're looking to live in Tennessee, Sweetwater might not be the best choice as it places 6th in our ranking of the worst places to live for 2020.

Sweetwater 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, Sweetwater may not be your first choice for a vacation.

Pigeon Forge, TN

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 6,197
Rank Last Year: 15 (Up 8)
Median Home Value: $163,200 (63rd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 3.1% (79th worst)
More on Pigeon Forge:  Data | Photos

If you live in Tennessee, you may or may not be surprised that Pigeon Forge ranked, at least on paper, as the 7th worst place to live in the state. It has the 79th highest unemployment rate in the state, and the 2nd most dangerous.

Incidentally, Pigeon Forge is the 4th most densely populated city in Tennessee. Draw your own conclusions.

Dunlap, TN

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 5,083
Rank Last Year: 17 (Up 9)
Median Home Value: $112,200 (26th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 3.4% (75th worst)
More on Dunlap:  Data | Photos

This may or may not be a surprise to you, but Dunlap is the 25th most dangerous city in Tennessee. For such a small city, there are an astounding number of property crimes. Residents here have a 1 in 21.3 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 Dunlap 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 Dunlap are really low. People here earn about $44,773 a year per household.

Additionally, the public schools in Dunlap 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 Dunlap.

Covington, TN

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 8,855
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 8)
Median Home Value: $106,100 (19th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.3% (28th 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 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.

Rockwood, TN

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 5,419
Rank Last Year: 18 (Up 8)
Median Home Value: $81,100 (3rd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 8.7% (21st worst)
More on Rockwood:  Data | Photos

Rockwood is a hot mess right now. There are some big economic problems here AND crime is really high. In fact, Rockwood is the 11th most dangerous place you can live in Tennessee.

Residents in Rockwood have a 1 in 17.0 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 Rockwood, where average homes are valued at only$81,100. That's the 3rd-lowest in the state. But residents earn far less than in other cities, so their mortgage payments might still seem overwhelming.

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

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 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:

  1. Collierville (Pop. 49,610)
  2. Brentwood (Pop. 41,987)
  3. Germantown (Pop. 39,164)

For more Tennessee reading, check out:

Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Tennessee?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Ripley 8,023 12.0% $86,300
2 Lawrenceburg 10,684 10.1% $87,600
3 Millington 10,720 9.0% $118,600
4 Savannah 6,964 11.5% $109,300
5 Morristown 29,547 9.0% $111,900
6 Sweetwater 5,870 5.5% $123,100
7 Pigeon Forge 6,197 3.1% $163,200
8 Dunlap 5,083 3.4% $112,200
9 Covington 8,855 7.3% $106,100
10 Rockwood 5,419 8.7% $81,100

How Is The Area In ?

37 thoughts on “The 10 Worst Places To Live In Tennessee For 2020

  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!

  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…

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