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 Waunakee certainly tries.
Of course, not all suburbs of Madison are created equally, which is precisely why we set out to find the best ones. So without further ado…
We examined the 16 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 2018:
- Fitchburg (Photos)
- Lake Mills (Photos)
- Evansville (Photos)
- Stoughton (Photos)
- Sun Prairie (Photos)
- Columbus (Photos)
- Cottage Grove (Photos)
- Monona (Photos)
- Middleton (Photos)
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.
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:
- 10 Best Places To Live In Wisconsin
- 10 Cheapest Places To Live In Wisconsin
- 10 Most Dangerous Cities In Wisconsin
Determining The Worst Suburbs Around Madison for 2018
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, 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 5,000 people. This left us with a grand total of 16 suburbs to evaluate around Madison.
We ranked each place with scores from 1 to 16 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, Fitchburg.
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.
We’ll get the ball rolling with Fitchburg, the absolute worst place to live around Madison according to the data.
And in the world of worst rankings, Fitchburg beat the competition pretty handily thanks to scoring in the bottom 15% in three major categories. Income is the 8th worst in the Madison area, and to make matters worse, the city ranks 14th 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 Fitchburg.
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 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 1st lowest in the metro area, where families bring in about $52,054 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.
3. Lake Mills
Back up the highway we go for the third worst Madison suburb you can live in. You might have expected to see Lake Mills 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.
If you live in Evansville, most likely you struggle to make ends meet every month. It ranks as the 2nd lowest Madison suburb when it comes to residents making money.
Not only that, but this is the 5th worst unemployed suburb you can live in if you choose to live near Madison. Remember, we looked at 16 cities for this study.
Evansville is about 22.4 miles to downtown.
Stoughton has the distinction of being a Madison suburb. Which means that’s about all it has going for it.
All snarkiness aside, Stoughton has the 5th lowest home values in the metro Madison area, where the median price is $182,400. To put that into perspective, in Waunakee, the median income is $93,132, which is the best in the area.
Stoughton has an unemployment rate of 4.9% which ranks 2nd worst.
6. Sun Prairie
Sun Prairie has 31,721 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 9.5%.
Ah, Columbus. You rank as the 7th worst place to live around Madison.
It’s the place with the 15th most out of work residents in the Madison metro area (2.1%).
8. Cottage Grove
Cottage Grove is a city about 11.5 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. Cottage Grove has the 9th most uninsured people, 14th worst incomes, and has the 4th highest unemployment rate (4.5%) in the entire Madison metro area.
Homes only cost $257,400 for a reason. That’s cheap for Madison standards.
If you absolutely have to live near Madison, then Monona might be a place for you to consider as it’s only the 9th worst Madison suburb.
About 4.1% of residents are out of work.
Rounding out the ten worst Madison suburbs to call home is Middleton.
Located 4.1 miles outside the city, Middletons is a real pit when you look at the data. Its residents have the 2nd highest unemployment rate (4.9%), and poverty is far above the area average.
The areas around Madison where the dream is more of a nightmare for 2018
Well there you have it — the worst of the ‘burbs surrounding Madison with Fitchburg casting itself ahead of the pack.
As we mentioned earlier, the suburbs around Madison aren’t all bad. Waunakee takes the cake as the best place to live around Madison.
For more Wisconsin reading, check out:
- 10 Most Ghetto Cities In Wisconsin
- These Are The 10 Richest Cities In Wisconsin
- 10 Safest Places In Wisconsin
- 10 Worst Places To Live In Wisconsin
Detailed List Of The Worst Madison Suburbs