The suburbs of Portland call to all types of people looking to escape city life. Some people would prefer to live in the cities and towns that surround Portland to avoid all the hustle and bustle.
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 Saturday Night Science to determine which Portland ‘burbs need a little tender loving care – the sore thumbs of the Portland area if you will. Realistically, you can only expect some of 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.
We examined the 36 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.
Now don’t freak out.
What’s the worst suburb of Portland? Woodburn ranks as the worst suburb of Portland for 2023 based on the most recent Census and FBI data.
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.
For more Oregon reading, check out:
The 10 Worst Portland Suburbs To Live For 2023
Median Income: $54,330 (2nd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 5.4% (11th highest)
Median Home Value: $241,300 (2nd lowest)
More on Woodburn:
We’ll get the ball rolling with Woodburn, the absolute worst place to live around Portland according to the data.
And in the world of worst rankings, Woodburn beat the competition pretty handily thanks to scoring in the bottom 15% in three major categories. Income is the 2nd worst in the Portland area, and to make matters worse, the city ranks 2nd 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 Woodburn.
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.
Median Income: $74,221 (10th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.0% (3rd highest)
Median Home Value: $275,900 (4th lowest)
More on Woodland:
Welcome to Woodland. Home to KMart, Big Lots, and a lot of gas stations.
This city is 26.8 miles to Portland. Income levels here are the 10th lowest in the metro area, where families bring in about $74,221 a year, which only goes so far even on a shoestring budget.
But on the bright side, there are a lot of fast food joints in the area.
Median Income: $67,839 (6th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 5.4% (12th highest)
Median Home Value: $251,000 (3rd lowest)
More on St. Helens:
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 dropout rate is poor compared to other Portland suburbs.
But at least there are lovely parks to bring the kids during the day.
Median Income: $75,000 (12th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.4% (2nd highest)
Median Home Value: $363,000 (17th lowest)
More on Estacada:
If you live in Estacada, most likely you struggle to make ends meet every month. It ranks as the 12th lowest Portland suburb for median household incomes.
Not only that, but this is the 2nd worst unemployed suburb you can live in if you choose to live near Portland. Remember, we looked at 36 cities for this study.
Estacada is about 22.5 miles to downtown.
Median Income: $61,826 (3rd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.2% (4th highest)
Median Home Value: $347,600 (14th lowest)
More on Gresham:
Gresham has the distinction of being a Portland suburb. Which means that’s about all it has going for it.
All snarkiness aside, Gresham has the 14th lowest home values in the metro Portland area, where the median price is $347,600. The median income is $131,980.
Gresham has an unemployment rate of 6.15% which ranks 4th worst.
Median Income: $67,462 (5th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 5.5% (10th highest)
Median Home Value: $343,900 (11th lowest)
More on Vancouver:
Vancouver has 188,331 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 12.706426956615353%.
Median Income: $65,604 (4th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 2.6% (32nd highest)
Median Home Value: $328,600 (7th lowest)
More on Fairview:
Ah, Fairview. You rank as the 7th worst place to live around Portland.
It’s the place with the 32nd most out of work residents in the Portland metro area (2.63%).
Median Income: $45,507 (lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 4.0% (23rd highest)
Median Home Value: $122,900 (lowest)
More on Columbia:
Columbia is a city about 26.1 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. Columbia has the 30th most uninsured people, worst incomes, and has the 23rd highest unemployment rate (4.02%) in the entire Portland metro area.
Homes only cost $122,900 for a reason. That’s cheap for Portland standards.
Median Income: $72,917 (7th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 3.5% (26th highest)
Median Home Value: $330,000 (8th lowest)
More on Cornelius:
If you absolutely have to live near Portland, then Cornelius might be a place for you to consider as it’s only the 9th worst Portland suburb.
About 3.52% of residents are out of work.
Median Income: $80,686 (14th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 2.2% (34th highest)
Median Home Value: $314,100 (6th lowest)
More on Hubbard:
Rounding out the ten worst Portland suburbs to call home is Hubbard.
Located 25.7 miles outside the city, Hubbards is a real pit when you look at the data. Its residents have the 34th highest unemployment rate (2.18%), and poverty is far above the area average.
Methodology: Determining The Worst Suburbs Around Portland for 2023
To figure out how bad a Portland suburb is to live in, we only needed to know what kinds of things people like and then decide what suburbs have the least amount of those things.
It’s Saturday Night Science.
We threw a lot of criteria at this one to get the best, most complete results possible. Using the most recent American Community Survey data from 2017-2021, 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 dropouts
- High poverty
- High rate of uninsured families
We defined a suburb as any town within 30 miles of Portland.
We also limited the analysis to places with over 3,000 people. This left us with a grand total of 36 suburbs to evaluate around Portland.
We ranked each place with scores from 1 to 36 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 looking at you, Woodburn.
We updated this article for 2023, which reflects our tenth time ranking the worst suburbs around Portland.
Summary: The areas around Portland where the dream is more of a nightmare for 2023
Well there you have it — the worst of the ‘burbs surrounding Portland with Woodburn 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
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Detailed List Of The Worst Portland Suburbs