The 10 Worst Madison Suburbs For 2021

We used science and data to determine which Madison suburbs are the real pits.

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Editor’s Note: This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out we updated this article for 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the worst suburbs around Madison.

Not everyone is cut out for city life. Some people would prefer to live in the cities and towns that surround Madison.

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 Madison 'burbs need a little tender loving care - the sore thumbs of the Madison area if you will. Realistically, you can't expect all 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 25 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.

Here are the 10 worst suburbs around Madison for 2021:

  1. Marshall
  2. Edgerton
  3. Columbus
  4. Waterloo
  5. Fitchburg
  6. Lake Mills
  7. Deerfield
  8. Belleville
  9. Poynette
  10. Stoughton

What's the worst suburb of Madison? Marshall ranks as the worst suburb of Madison for 2021 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.

Or, if you're thinking of moving to elsewhere in wisconsin check out the best places in wisconsin overall or the worst.

And remember, there are some good places to live around Madison 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 Wisconsin reading, check out:

The 10 Worst Madison Suburbs To Live For 2021

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 3,966
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Income: $61,339 (3rd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 5.1% (3rd highest)
Median Home Value: $177,700 (4th lowest)
More on Marshall:  Data

We'll get the ball rolling with Marshall, the absolute worst place to live around Madison according to the data.

And in the world of worst rankings, Marshall 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 4th 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 Marshall.

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.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,550
Rank Last Year: 3 (Up 1)
Median Income: $65,641 (4th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 4.9% (4th highest)
Median Home Value: $158,200 (lowest)
More on Edgerton:  Data

Welcome to Edgerton. Home to KMart, Big Lots, and a lot of gas stations.

This city is 25.0 miles to Madison. Income levels here are the 4th lowest in the metro area, where families bring in about $65,641 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.

Columbus, WI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,058
Rank Last Year: 4 (Up 1)
Median Income: $58,606 (lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 1.4% (17th highest)
Median Home Value: $165,400 (3rd lowest)
More on Columbus:  Data | Photos

Back up the highway we go for the third worst Madison suburb you can live in. You might have expected to see Columbus 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 Madison suburbs.

But at least there are nice parks to bring the kids during the day.

Waterloo, WI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 3,337
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 2)
Median Income: $75,438 (12th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 5.3% (highest)
Median Home Value: $161,500 (2nd lowest)
More on Waterloo:  Data | Photos

If you live in Waterloo, most likely you struggle to make ends meet every month. It ranks as the 12th lowest Madison suburb when it comes to residents making money.

Not only that, but this is the worst unemployed suburb you can live in if you choose to live near Madison. Remember, we looked at 25 cities for this study.

Waterloo is about 23.1 miles to downtown.

Fitchburg, WI

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 29,450
Rank Last Year: 5 (No Change)
Median Income: $72,324 (9th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 3.2% (7th highest)
Median Home Value: $315,900 (22nd lowest)
More on Fitchburg:  Data | Photos

Fitchburg has the distinction of being a Madison suburb. Which means that's about all it has going for it.

All snarkiness aside, Fitchburg has the 22nd lowest home values in the metro Madison area, where the median price is $315,900. To put that into perspective, in Cross Plains, the median income is $123,200, which is the best in the area.

Fitchburg has an unemployment rate of 3.18% which ranks 7th worst.

Lake Mills, WI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,895
Rank Last Year: 6 (No Change)
Median Income: $70,239 (6th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 1.2% (20th highest)
Median Home Value: $198,100 (8th lowest)
More on Lake Mills:  Data | Photos

Lake Mills has 5,895 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 7.888869833647744%.

Deerfield, WI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 2,538
Rank Last Year: 7 (No Change)
Median Income: $73,015 (10th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 5.2% (2nd highest)
Median Home Value: $205,300 (9th lowest)
More on Deerfield:  Data | Photos

Ah, Deerfield. You rank as the 7th worst place to live around Madison.

It's the place with the 2nd most out of work residents in the Madison metro area (5.24%).

Belleville, WI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 2,556
Rank Last Year: 8 (No Change)
Median Income: $77,841 (15th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 3.6% (6th highest)
Median Home Value: $190,700 (6th lowest)
More on Belleville:  Data | Photos

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 3rd most uninsured people, 15th worst incomes, and has the 6th highest unemployment rate (3.64%) in the entire Madison metro area.

Homes only cost $190,700 for a reason. That's cheap for Madison standards.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 2,496
Rank Last Year: 9 (No Change)
Median Income: $81,330 (17th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 0.3% (25th highest)
Median Home Value: $193,300 (7th lowest)
More on Poynette:  Data

If you absolutely have to live near Madison, then Poynette might be a place for you to consider as it's only the 9th worst Madison suburb.

About 0.27% of residents are out of work.

Stoughton, WI

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 13,097
Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 2)
Median Income: $67,329 (5th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 1.5% (15th highest)
Median Home Value: $218,100 (11th lowest)
More on Stoughton:  Data | Photos

Rounding out the ten worst Madison suburbs to call home is Stoughton.

Located 15.5 miles outside the city, Stoughtons is a real pit when you look at the data. Its residents have the 15th highest unemployment rate (1.51%), and poverty is far above the area average.

Determining The Worst Suburbs Around Madison 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 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 2015-2019, 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 Madison.

Additionally, we limited the analysis to places that have over 2,000 people. This left us with a grand total of 25 suburbs to evaluate around Madison.

We ranked each place with scores from 1 to 25 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 lookin' at you, Marshall. You can download the data here.

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.

The areas around Madison where the dream is more of a nightmare for 2021

Well there you have it -- the worst of the 'burbs surrounding Madison with Marshall 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
  • Shorewood Hills
  • Waunakee

For more Wisconsin reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Worst Madison Suburbs

Rank City Population Median Income Median Home Values
1 Marshall 3,966 $61,339 $177,700
2 Edgerton 5,550 $65,641 $158,200
3 Columbus 5,058 $58,606 $165,400
4 Waterloo 3,337 $75,438 $161,500
5 Fitchburg 29,450 $72,324 $315,900
6 Lake Mills 5,895 $70,239 $198,100
7 Deerfield 2,538 $73,015 $205,300
8 Belleville 2,556 $77,841 $190,700
9 Poynette 2,496 $81,330 $193,300
10 Stoughton 13,097 $67,329 $218,100
11 Prairie Du Sac 4,347 $59,842 $242,200
12 Sun Prairie 33,321 $77,139 $239,200
13 Lodi 3,060 $72,117 $206,600
14 Evansville 5,312 $70,828 $187,000
15 Deforest 10,179 $88,151 $234,800
16 Cottage Grove 7,020 $99,322 $277,500
17 Verona 13,004 $96,990 $310,700
18 Monona 8,122 $74,474 $272,200
19 Middleton 19,487 $76,011 $336,900
20 Mcfarland 8,650 $92,944 $249,200
21 Oregon 10,353 $83,885 $256,500
22 Mount Horeb 7,449 $79,900 $262,900
23 Waunakee 13,730 $112,845 $346,300
24 Shorewood Hills 2,277 $123,200 $665,300
25 Cross Plains 4,187 $84,861 $276,300

How Is Your Town In ?