The suburbs of Madison call to all types of people looking to escape city life. Some people would prefer to live in the cities and towns that surround Madison 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 Madison ‘burbs need a little tender loving care – the sore thumbs of the Madison area if you will. Realistically, you can only expect some of the suburbs to live up to Madison proper, although Cross Plains certainly tries.
Of course, not all suburbs of Madison are created equally, which is precisely why we set out to find the best ones.
We examined the 26 biggest suburbs of Madison to find out the worst places to live. And while you won’t necessarily find them on the worst places to live in Wisconsin lists, these ten places are a little too far downwind of Madison in terms of quality of life.
Now don’t freak out.
What’s the worst suburb of Madison? Waterloo ranks as the worst suburb of Madison for 2023 based on the most recent Census and FBI data.
Read on to see how we determined the places around Madison that need a pick-me-up. And remember, don’t blame the messenger.
And remember, there are some good places to live around Madison too.
For more Wisconsin reading, check out:
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The 10 Worst Madison Suburbs To Live For 2023
Median Income: $63,984 (3rd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 2.6% (8th highest)
Median Home Value: $172,800 (3rd lowest)
More on Waterloo:
We’ll get the ball rolling with Waterloo, the absolute worst place to live around Madison according to the data.
And in the world of worst rankings, Waterloo beat the competition pretty handily thanks to scoring in the bottom 15% in three major categories. Income is the 3rd worst in the Madison area, and to make matters worse, the city ranks 3rd 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 Waterloo.
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: $61,190 (lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 4.0% (4th highest)
Median Home Value: $204,500 (5th lowest)
More on Marshall:
Welcome to Marshall. Home to KMart, Big Lots, and a lot of gas stations.
This city is 19.4 miles to Madison. Income levels here are the lowest in the metro area, where families bring in about $61,190 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: $68,900 (5th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 5.1% (2nd highest)
Median Home Value: $172,700 (2nd lowest)
More on Edgerton:
Back up the highway we go for the third worst Madison suburb you can live in. You might have expected to see Edgerton 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 Madison suburbs.
But at least there are lovely parks to bring the kids during the day.
Median Income: $62,833 (2nd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 2.4% (10th highest)
Median Home Value: $170,500 (lowest)
More on Columbus:
If you live in Columbus, most likely you struggle to make ends meet every month. It ranks as the 2nd lowest Madison suburb for median household incomes.
Not only that, but this is the 10th worst unemployed suburb you can live in if you choose to live near Madison. Remember, we looked at 26 cities for this study.
Columbus is about 26.4 miles to downtown.
Median Income: $78,333 (11th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.1% (highest)
Median Home Value: $202,800 (4th lowest)
More on New Glarus:
New Glarus has the distinction of being a Madison suburb. Which means that’s about all it has going for it.
All snarkiness aside, New Glarus has the 4th lowest home values in the metro Madison area, where the median price is $202,800. The median income is $128,672.
New Glarus has an unemployment rate of 6.05% which ranks worst.
Median Income: $78,218 (10th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 1.5% (20th highest)
Median Home Value: $340,000 (23rd lowest)
More on Fitchburg:
Fitchburg has 29,361 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 10.416886172865523%.
Median Income: $72,770 (6th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 1.0% (23rd highest)
Median Home Value: $207,100 (6th lowest)
More on Lake Mills:
Ah, Lake Mills. You rank as the 7th worst place to live around Madison.
It’s the place with the 23rd most out of work residents in the Madison metro area (0.98%).
Median Income: $78,872 (14th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 3.7% (5th highest)
Median Home Value: $208,700 (8th lowest)
More on Belleville:
Belleville is a city about 16.4 miles from Madison, but Madison 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. Belleville has the 10th most uninsured people, 14th worst incomes, and has the 5th highest unemployment rate (3.66%) in the entire Madison metro area.
Homes only cost $208,700 for a reason. That’s cheap for Madison standards.
Median Income: $78,442 (12th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 1.8% (17th highest)
Median Home Value: $246,900 (11th lowest)
More on Deerfield:
If you absolutely have to live near Madison, then Deerfield might be a place for you to consider as it’s only the 9th worst Madison suburb.
About 1.75% of residents are out of work.
Median Income: $88,664 (2lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 2.2% (13th highest)
Median Home Value: $250,100 (12th lowest)
More on Deforest:
Rounding out the ten worst Madison suburbs to call home is DeForest.
Located 11.0 miles outside the city, DeForests is a real pit when you look at the data. Its residents have the 13th highest unemployment rate (2.19%), and poverty is far above the area average.
Methodology: Determining The Worst Suburbs Around Madison for 2023
To figure out how bad a Madison 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 Madison.
We also limited the analysis to places with over 2,000 people. This left us with a grand total of 26 suburbs to evaluate around Madison.
We ranked each place with scores from 1 to 26 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 Madison.” We’re looking at you, Waterloo.
We updated this article for 2023, which reflects our tenth time ranking the worst suburbs around Madison.
Summary: The areas around Madison where the dream is more of a nightmare for 2023
Well there you have it — the worst of the ‘burbs surrounding Madison with Waterloo casting itself ahead of the pack.
As we mentioned earlier, the suburbs around Madison aren’t all bad. Cross Plains takes the cake as the best place to live around Madison.
- Cross Plains
- Mount Horeb
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Detailed List Of The Worst Madison Suburbs
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