“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 90 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 2019.
For more Tennessee reading, check out:
- 10 Best Places To Live In Tennessee
- 10 Cheapest Places To Live In Tennessee
- 10 Most Dangerous Cities In Tennessee
The 10 Worst Places To Live In Tennessee For 2019
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 10.0%, which is the 17th highest in Tennessee. And, as you can imagine, many of the folks in Covington live at or below the poverty line.
Sweetwater is the 9th most dangerous place in the state of Tennessee. That’s part of the reason it’s the 2nd worst place in Tennessee.
The fact remains, that when you’re within Sweetwater city limits, you have a 1 in 15.5 chance of being robbed or having something you own vandalized.Does that sound like a fun place to live?
Did you know Sweetwater also has the 26th highest unemployment rate in the state at 8.1%? Or that homes are only valued at $113,700?
Say what you want about cheap living. The fact is, homes are priced by demand, and there’s little demand to live in Sweetwater.
You can’t blame them for living in La Follette since it’s really beautiful, but there are sacrifices you make to live in the boonies. One of them is income.
Not only is the unemployment rate the 4th highest in the state here (14.6%), the residents in La Follette earn the smallest household income in the state of Tennessee. At a combined income of $27,819, families of four are barely above the poverty line.
In addition, the crime here is really high for a small city in Tennessee. La Follette has the 33rd highest crime rate in the state.
Welcome to Ripley, Tennessee, where more people are out of work than anywhere else in the state. 1 in 6.9 people is without a job, and families bring in a combined $27,309 a year.
Crime is the 35th highest in Tennessee, where you have a 1 in 26.5 chance of being the victim of a property crime, and every year, you have a 1 in 79 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?
This may or may not be a surprise to you, but Savannah is the 3rd most dangerous city in Tennessee. For such a small city, there are an astounding number of property crimes. Residents here have a 1 in 13.5 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 Savannah 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 Savannah are really low. People here earn about $29,890 a year per household.
Additionally, the public schools in Savannah 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 Savannah.
Things are starting to get progressively more ‘modern’ and in line with what you expect in a great state such as Tennessee when we get to Lexington. Sure, the unemployment rate is at 12.5% (which is really high), and the median income is $38,468. But the homes are at least above the $100,000 mark, and the schools aren’t a complete mess.
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 (10.3%) is the 14th highest in the state. A home here sells for $86,400, on average. That signals it’s not a desirable place to live.
Plus, crime is in the top 10%.
Harriman is in a bad place. Again, the household incomes here are really, really low, and the average home value is $85,400. That means it ranks as the 4th lowest in Tennessee.
You can make a case that based on the fact that Harriman has no real indoor entertainment, and crime is the 43rd worst in the state, it’s one of the worst places you can live in Tennessee.
Morristown, TN needs a big hug right now. The unemployment rate here is 9.3%, the median income is just above the poverty line, and the crime is the 27th highest in the state. You have a 1 in 21.2 chance of being robbed here every year.
You could find a much better place to call home.
Somewhere west of Knoxville along I-40 is the small city of Crossville, where you have a 1 in 10 chance of being robbed every year. If you’re passing through, lock your doors and don’t talk to strangers.
Folks in Crossville earn under $30,000 a year, and you can imagine, many live at or below the poverty line. And the public schools are in the bottom 10% when it comes to spending levels.
What makes it worse is the cost of living is higher here than is most of the other cities on this list. Meaning, owning a home here is really a lot harder. Who wants to overpay to live in’Crossville?
How we determined the worst places to live in Tennessee for 2019
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 90 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 90 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.
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 2019.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Tennessee:
- Collierville (Pop. 48,960)
- Brentwood (Pop. 41,524)
- Germantown (Pop. 39,230)
For more Tennessee reading, check out: