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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 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:
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.
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 2021
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.
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?
If you're looking to live in Tennessee, Morristown might not be the best choice as it places 3rd in our ranking of the worst places to live in the Volunteer State for 2021.
The average family earns $32,193 a year out here, and 26.6% of the population is below the poverty line. Nearly 7.7% 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 Morristown, every year, you have a 1 in 20.9 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 16th most dangerous place in the state, per capita.
La Follette ranks as the 4th worst place to live in Tennessee for 2021.
The issues La Follette has is with its local economy. The unemployment rate is the highest in Tennessee (20.4%), and as you might expect, the household salaries and home prices are both towards the bottom of Tennessee.
If you're looking to live in Tennessee, Sweetwater might not be the best choice as it places 5th in our ranking of the worst places to live for 2021.
The unemployment rate here is 8.1%, and households bring in a combined $40,158 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 18th highest in the state in Sweetwater as well. Just not a very desirable place at all to make home.
Rockwood is another place in the Volunteer State that has some real eye-opening numbers. The unemployment rate in Rockwood is a staggering 6.5%, but at least those who have jobs earn a modest salary ($32,334 a year). Homes are actually priced respectfully at $83,200, but still far lower than the state average.
Crime in Rockwood is bad, but not horrible.
Now we can get to some actual cities that might have some normal numbers. In this case, Mcminnville ranks high mainly due to the low economic numbers. Homes are the 12th cheapest in the state here at $98,400. 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 Mcminnville.
The median income levels here are the 2lowest in the state of Tennessee, at $35,909. Crime is above average, but not horrible like some of the cities we'll talk about in a minute. And almost 6.9% of people in Mcminnville were without jobs according to the latest numbers.
Millington is also a pretty crummy place to live, when you look at the numbers. Yes, we're aware that it's beautiful and "fun". But that ignores important things like jobs and income.
Millington residents earn the 57th-lowest salaries in the state. At $52,500 a year, people here most likely have a hard time getting ahead in life. And the average home costs are $129,000, which means there isn't a lot of demand.
Crime is the 11th highest in Tennessee per capita, and the unemployment rate here is 5th highest in the state, at 10.3%.
While the median household income in Bolivar is higher than other towns on this list, causing it to be lower down on the list of "worst cities", Bolivar still has the 2nd worst unemployment rate in the state, as well as the 32nd worst crime index.
Therefore, though the average Bolivar household brings in a higher income, there are fewer people working here than in other cities across the state. It doesn't help that everyone has to be constantly worried about crime, either.
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
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:
- Brentwood (Pop. 42,407)
- Signal Mountain (Pop. 8,539)
- Germantown (Pop. 39,193)
For more Tennessee reading, check out:
Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Tennessee?