Not everyone is cut out for city life. Some people would prefer to live in the cities and towns that surround Portland.
So the question arises, do the suburbs maintain a semblance of the larger-than-life appeal of their more famous neighbor?
Today, we’ll use science and data to determine which Portland ‘burbs need a little tender loving care – the sore thumbs of the Portland area if you will. Realistically, you can’t expect all the suburbs to live up to Portland proper, although Sherwood certainly tries.
Of course, not all suburbs of Portland are created equally, which is precisely why we set out to find the best ones. So without further ado…
We examined the 37 biggest suburbs of Portland to find out the worst places to live. And while you won’t necessarily find them on the worst places to live in Oregon lists, these ten places are a little too far downwind of Portland in terms of quality of life.
Here are the 10 worst suburbs around Portland for 2019:
- Woodburn (Photos)
- St. Helens (Photos)
- Gresham (Photos)
- Hubbard (Photos)
- Molalla (Photos)
- Forest Grove (Photos)
Read on to see how we determined the places around Portland that need a pick-me-up. And remember, don’t blame the messenger.
And remember, there are some good places to live around Portland too.
Editor’s Note: If you see a slight difference between the worst in state rankings and this suburb ranking, it’s because of the methodology. We needed a way to include more places, so we eliminated crime and commute times as criteria for this analysis.
For more Oregon reading, check out:
- 10 Best Places To Live In Oregon
- 10 Cheapest Places To Live In Oregon
- 10 Most Dangerous Cities In Oregon
Determining The Worst Suburbs Around Portland 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 threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using the most recent American Community Survey data from 2013-2017, this is the criteria we used:
- High unemployment rate
- Low median household incomes
- Low population density (no things to do)
- Low home values
- A lot of high school drop outs
- High poverty
- High rate of uninsured families
FYI: We defined a suburb as being within 30 miles of Portland.
Additionally, we limited the analysis to places that have over 2,000 people. This left us with a grand total of 37 suburbs to evaluate around Portland.
We ranked each place with scores from 1 to 37 in each category, where 1 was the “worst”.
Next, we averaged the rankings for each place to create a quality of life index.
And finally, we crowned the city with the worst quality of life index the “Worst Suburb near Portland.” We’re lookin’ at you, Columbia.
Read on below to learn more about what it’s like to live in the worst of the worst. Or skip to the end to see the list of all the suburbs ranked from worst to best.
Rank Last Year: 2 (Up 1)
Median Income: $40,982 (1st lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 9.1% (1st highest)
Median Home Value: $101,100 (1st lowest)
More on Columbia:
We’ll get the ball rolling with Columbia, the absolute worst place to live around Portland according to the data.
And in the world of worst rankings, Columbia beat the competition pretty handily thanks to scoring in the bottom 15% in three major categories. Income is the 1st worst in the Portland area, and to make matters worse, the city ranks 1st worst when it comes to home values.
But hey, at least it’s cheap to live there. But there’s a reason for that… it’s Columbia.
You won’t feel bad about not having a great income for the area, there aren’t a bunch of places to spend your money anyway.
Welcome to Woodburn. Home to KMart, Big Lots, and a lot of gas stations.
This city is 28.7 miles to Portland. Income levels here are the 3rd lowest in the metro area, where families bring in about $47,042 a year, which doesn’t go a long ways even on a shoestring budget.
But on the bright side, there are a lot of fast food joints in the area.
Back up the highway we go for the third worst Portland suburb you can live in. You might have expected to see St. Helens on here. While the cost of living is low, your entertainment and work options are limited. And that’s an understatement.
In terms of numbers, it’s in the worst 15% for insurance, and the adult high school drop out rate is poor compared to other Portland suburbs.
But at least there are nice parks to bring the kids during the day.
If you live in Gresham, most likely you struggle to make ends meet every month. It ranks as the 4th lowest Portland suburb when it comes to residents making money.
Not only that, but this is the 3rd worst unemployed suburb you can live in if you choose to live near Portland. Remember, we looked at 37 cities for this study.
Gresham is about 10.4 miles to downtown.
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
Median Income: $54,837 (6th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 4.4% (28th highest)
Median Home Value: $247,500 (16th lowest)
More on Estacada: Data
Estacada has the distinction of being a Portland suburb. Which means that’s about all it has going for it.
All snarkiness aside, Estacada has the 16th lowest home values in the metro Portland area, where the median price is $247,500. To put that into perspective, in Sherwood, the median income is $115,718, which is the best in the area.
Estacada has an unemployment rate of 4.4% which ranks 28th worst.
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 3)
Median Income: $63,933 (15th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 4.8% (24th highest)
Median Home Value: $212,700 (5th lowest)
More on Woodland:
Woodland has 5,765 residents that probably know it’s a pretty crummy place to live when you look at the data. (Or, if you’ve ever been there, you don’t need to look at the data.)
Incomes are towards the bottom and the poverty rate sits at 14.5%.
Rank Last Year: 7 (No Change)
Median Income: $55,593 (7th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.1% (6th highest)
Median Home Value: $238,300 (9th lowest)
More on Vancouver:
Ah, Vancouver. You rank as the 7th worst place to live around Portland.
It’s the place with the 6th most out of work residents in the Portland metro area (7.1%).
Hubbard is a city about 25.7 miles from Portland, but Portland probably wishes it was further away. It ranks as the 8th worst burb for 2018.
You’d be hard pressed to find a worse place to live. Hubbard has the 1st most uninsured people, 13th worst incomes, and has the 6th highest unemployment rate (7.1%) in the entire Portland metro area.
Homes only cost $191,200 for a reason. That’s cheap for Portland standards.
If you absolutely have to live near Portland, then Molalla might be a place for you to consider as it’s only the 9th worst Portland suburb.
About 6.7% of residents are out of work.
Rounding out the ten worst Portland suburbs to call home is Forest Grove.
Located 22.3 miles outside the city, Forest Groves is a real pit when you look at the data. Its residents have the 8th highest unemployment rate (7.0%), and poverty is far above the area average.
The areas around Portland where the dream is more of a nightmare for 2019
Well there you have it — the worst of the ‘burbs surrounding Portland with Columbia casting itself ahead of the pack.
As we mentioned earlier, the suburbs around Portland aren’t all bad. Sherwood takes the cake as the best place to live around Portland.
- West Linn
- Lake Oswego
For more Oregon reading, check out:
- These Are The 10 Best Places To Retire In Oregon
- These Are The 10 Richest Cities In Oregon
- 10 Safest Places In Oregon
- 10 Worst Places To Live In Oregon
Detailed List Of The Worst Portland Suburbs