People from Alabama are really passionate about being from Alabama. As a state, Alabama doesn’t necessarily get a lot of media attention, but it’s also a quiet gem, tucked away in the deep south.
This article isn’t a knock on Alabama, it’s just a scientific analysis on where the worst places to live there are. Of course, there are a lot of awesome places to live in Alabama. This is, though, isn’t that. It’s the opposite.
It’s the places you don’t want to live in.
After analyzing 65 of the largest cities, we came up with this list as the 10 worst places in Alabama:
- Gadsden (Photos)
- Bessemer (Photos)
- Anniston (Photos)
- Atmore (Photos)
- Selma (Photos)
- Talladega (Photos)
- Fort Payne (Photos)
- Eufaula (Photos)
- Phenix City (Photos)
And in 11th place, Mobile.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and/or scroll to the bottom to see how each town ranked. And you can read about the best places in Alabama here.
How do you decide if a place is lousy or not?
In order to rank the worst places to live in Alabama, we had to determine what criteria people like or dislike about a place. It isn’t a stretch to assume that people like low crime, solid education, great weather, things to do and a stable economy.
We also looked at the bigger places, because while the smaller places have less to do (which might make them ‘worse’ than a bigger city), it wouldn’t be fair to compare a place with less than 20 people with a place of 200,000.
So we scraped the internet for those criteria, and it spit out the answer. Like magic.
How we crunched the numbers
We threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using FBI crime data, the government census, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Sperling’s Best Places, this is the criteria we used:
- Population Density (The lower the worse)
- Highest Unemployment Rates
- Adjusted Median Income (Median income adjusted for the cost of living)
- High Housing Vacancy Rate
- Education (Low expenditures per student and low Student Teacher Ratio)
- Long Commute Times
- High Crime
- The Worst Weather
Household income: $27,865
Household vacancy rate: 18.3%
Crime: 4th worst in Alabama
Gadsden, about an hour north of Birmingham, takes the honor of being the worst place in Alabama, at least on paper. Crime is almost highest here than anywhere else in the state. And with an unemployment rate of more than 8%, and considering the fact that 1 in 5 houses are vacant, things aren’t looking up there.
Additionally, Gadsden residents have a very low household income level, and student spending is almost dead last in the state (schools spend, on average, a measly $8,500 per student, per year).
Things have changed here. Way back in 1991, Gadsden was awarded the honor of being called an “All-American City.”
Crime: 10th worst in Alabama
Household income: $23,726
Unemployment rate: 11.5%
Prichard, a Mobile suburb, is almost as dangerous and its residents make even less per year than in Gadsden. The unemployment rate here is almost higher than in any other place in Alabama, and nearly 1 in 5 homes is vacant.
Additionally, Prichard is currently going through bankruptcy proceedings, and has seen its population cut in half over the last 20 years.
House vacancy rate: 17.1%
Crime: 3rd worst of cities of its size
Unemployment: 4th worst for larger cities
The city of Bessemer, a Birmingham suburb, has tried to rebound from a loss of manufacturing and railroad jobs, but its population has shrunk nearly 20% in the last 20 years.
The hometown for NFL quarterback Jameis Winston has very bad crime and an employment rate that’s nearly the highest for cities of its size. On the bright side, K-12 student spending is highest here than in the entire state.
Household vacancy rate: 20.5%
Crime: 5th worst for larger cities
Unemployment rate: 8.1%
Anniston is out in an area on its own, about an hour drive east of Birmingham. In 2002, it was determined by 60 Minutes that Anniston was one of the highest-contaminated cities in the country.
Crime is bad here, houses are vacant, and the unemployment rate is nearly 1 in 10. As several residents of Anniston said on City-Data, don’t move there.
Population density: 7th lowest
Unemployment rate: 7.9%
Household vacancy rate:15%
Atmore, a Mobile suburb, is the smallest city on our entire list. As Alan Jackson says, “It’s alright to be itty bitty”, but when you have a high unemployment rate, 1 in 6 houses are vacant, and household incomes are far below the state average, it’s not the first place you might want to move to.
On the bright side, Atmore has more sunny days a year than almost any other place in Alabama. And former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield was born there, so they have that going for them.
Unemployment rate: 12%
Household income: $22,076
Crime: 3rd worst for larger cities
Selma is in a fix. It has some of the worst crime, lowest household incomes and one of the highest unemployment rates in the state of Alabama.
The economic base in Selma was decent at one point, but the population has been diminishing at a high rate for the last 30 years. Selma is located out in the boonies, about an hour west of Montgomery, and as one user on City-Data said, “There’s not a lot to do in Selma except hunt.”
Crime: 8th worst for larger cities
Median income: $29,121
Eric Church recently released a song praising Talladega as being a fun place for boyhood memories (not sure if he actually spent time there or not). Nowadays, Talladega is a fairly dangerous place, statistically, with a household income much lower than the state average.
Like other places on this list, Talladega has failed to adjust to a new economy, as the population and overall economic output has shrunk in the last 30 years.
8. Fort Payne
House vacancy rate: 17.4%
Population density: 3rd lowest for cites its size
Education ranking: 5th lowest for similarly sized cities in Alabama
On paper, Fort Payne is one of the worst places to live in Alabama. It has one of the worst educational rankings in the state, as spending per student, and teacher-to-student ratios are far below average.
Located near the Georgia state line, Fort Payne is one of the least densely populated places in the state, meaning there’s really not a lot to do here. Except, perhaps, enjoy the weather: It has the highest Comfort Index in the state, according to BestPlaces.Net, which measures temperature, rain, and humidity levels.
Unemployment rate: 10.6%
Population density: 3rd lowest for cities its size
Household income: $34,086
Like Fort Payne, Eufaula ranks high on this list partly due to its lack of things to do. It’s sparsely populated, and an hour from Birmingham. Additionally, the unemployment rate here is way above the state average, and residents in Eufaula earn substantially less than residents in other cities.
10. Phenix City
Household income: $34,559
House vacancy rate: 15%
Crime: 15th worst for cities its size
Phenix City, sitting a stone’s throw away from the Georgia state line, rounds out our worst places to live in Alabama list.
It was ranked as one of the most affordable suburbs to raise kids, eight years ago, by BusinessWeek magazine, and has been named as a great place for nightlife. That’s why it’s surprising that Phenix City ranked so high on this list. But, the data never lies.
There You Have It
Like we said earlier, Alabama has some beautiful places that a lot of folks are proud to call home, for sure. But if you’re analyzing places in Alabama with the worst economic situations, where there’s high crime and there’s not a lot to do, this is an accurate list.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best places to live in Alabama, according to science.
- Vestavia Hills (Pop. 33,831)
- Mountain Brook (Pop. 20,398)
- Hoover (Pop. 81,432)
- Madison (Pop. 42,925)
- Forestdale (Pop. 10,316)
Disclaimer: This article is an opinion based on data. It should not be taken as fact.