These Are The 10 Worst Places To Live In Idaho

We analyzed tons of data to determine which places in the Gem State are the real pits.

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Idaho is one of those off-the-radar states that you don’t hear about very often. As far as we’re concerned, Idaho is a beautiful state with hard-working Americans. But we’re not here to debate Idaho’s merits – either good or bad.

We’re here to simply make an unbiased, research-driven analysis of where the worst places to live in Idaho are. And for those looking to visit the Gem State, or move there permanently, this list should provide some value.

According to scientific data, and after analyzing the most populated cities, these are the worst 10 places that you could possibly live in Idaho:

  1. Middleton
  2. Caldwell (Photos)
  3. Payette (Photos)
  4. Mountain Home (Photos)
  5. Nampa (Photos)
  6. Emmett (Photos)
  7. Weiser (Photos)
  8. Pocatello (Photos)
  9. Sandpoint (Photos)
  10. Rathdrum (Photos)

Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and how your town ranked.

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Small Towns vs. Big Cities. Which is Better?

In order to rank the worst places to live in Idaho, we had to determine if it made sense to even rank a tiny place that has less than 500 people. We decided that, no, that wouldn’t make sense, so we left most of the towns with less than 4,000 people off of the list.

Using our analysis, we figured that a town with a population of 100 residents with one murder and 20 unemployed people would simply skew the rankings. This is a list of places that are actual cities.

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 (Lower being worse)
  • Higher Unemployment Rates
  • Adjusted Median Income (Median income adjusted for the cost of living)
  • High Housing Vacancy Rate
  • Education (Worse expenditures per student and worse Student Teacher Ratio)
  • Long Commute Times
  • High Crime
  • The Worst Weather

If your city isn’t in the Top 10, scroll to the bottom of this post to see a complete list of the larger cities and how they ranked.

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1. Middleton

Worst Idaho cities

Source:Google Maps

Median income: $41,556
Crime: 13th worst in Idaho
Unemployment: 5.6%

  These Are The 10 Most Boring Cities In Idaho

Tiny Middleton, about a 30-minute drive west of Boise, takes the honor of statistically, being the worst place to live in the entire state of Idaho.

With higher than average crime, some of the highest unemployment rates in the state and a very sparsely populated land area, folks in Middleton may enjoy the open space, but they most likely want more jobs and higher-paying jobs as well.

Middleton doubles in population every ten years, so perhaps as people move there and commute into Boise, these numbers will change.

2. Caldwell

Source: Flickr user Roadsidepictures

Crime: 7th worst in Idaho
Household income: $39,302
Unemployment rate: 6.1%

On the other end of the spectrum, population wise, is Caldwell. Just south of Middleton, but with a population of nearly 50,000, Caldwell has, essentially, the highest unemployment rate in Idaho. Crime is exceptionally high for the state as well.

The house vacancy rate – meaning the number of empty homes in a city – is at 10% as well in Caldwell, which is well above the national average.

3. Payette

Source: Flickr user Ken Lund

Median income: $30,040
Education ranking: Crime: 5th worst in the state
Household vacancy rate:11.56%

There seems to be a pattern here, as Payette, another city on the western side of the Boise-Nampa area, ranks as the third-worst place to live in Idaho, according to the data.

Even more homes are vacant Payette (population 7,500), which is about an hour drive north of Boise. The average household income here makes almost less than any other city in the state, and crime is exceptionally high for the state of Idaho.

At least the sun shines more here, as Payette has more sunny days than any other city except the town of Buhl.

4. Mountain Home

Source: Flickr user J. Stephen Conn

House vacancy rate: 14.73%
Crime: 4th worst in Idaho
Unemployment rate: 4th worst in Idaho

With an unemployment rate of 5.8% and the crime rate almost as high as any other city in Idaho, Mountain Home has some issues to address.

Additionally, nearly 15% of the homes here are vacant, meaning almost 1 in 7 homes is empty in this small city about 45 minutes south of Boise.

5. Nampa

Source: Flickr user Roadsidepictures

Crime: 9th worst in Idaho
Commute time: 23 minutes
Student-teacher ratio: 4th lowest in Idaho

  These Are The 10 Most Dangerous Cities In Idaho

By far the largest city in the worst places to live category, Nampa has worse crime and much higher unemployment than its neighbor, Boise, which actually finished as the 10th best place to live in Idaho.

While Nampa’s unemployment rate is lower than average, its residents earn about $10,000 less a year than residents of Boise.

6. Emmett

Source: Flickr user J. Stephen Conn

Median income: $27,853
Unemployment: 5.6%
House vacancy rate: 11.8%

Emmett, Idaho, about 45 minutes north of Boise (without traffic), has some of the highest home vacancy rates and has a higher than normal unemployment rate in the state. Additionally, the income is almost dead last in cities with a population of 5,000 or more in Idaho.

If commute time is important, Emmett residents have the longest commute of any residents on our list.

7. Weiser

Source: Flickr user Ken Lund

Unemployment rate: 6.5%
Median income: $31,050

Weiser, about 76 miles north of Boise, has almost the worst unemployment in Idaho. Factor in longer than normal commute times and lower than normal household incomes and Weiser ranks as one of the worst places for residents of Idaho.

On the upside, Weiser has the third-lowest crime rates in Idaho and the seventh-best education ranking in the state.

8. Pocatello

Source: Flickr user Richard Bauer

Education ranking: 7th worst in Idaho
Crime: 10th worst in the state
Median household income: $41,978

Pocatello, one of the largest cities in Idaho, makes it toward the top of the list primarily due to the crime levels and education rankings. Expenditure per student is $6.586 – far lower than other cities in Idaho – and a teacher-to-student ratio of 23:1, also far lower than other cities on the list.

Pocatello does have a low unemployment rate (4.6%), and was named as one of the best small places for business and careers about eight years ago.

9. Sandpoint

Source: Idaho Department of Commerce

House vacancy rate: 11.69%
Median household income: $38,519
Unemployment: 7.1%

Sandpoint, on the banks of Lake Pend Oreille in the Idaho panhandle, may be beautiful, but it’s plagued by the second highest unemployment rate in Idaho, as well as one of the highest house vacancy rates (1 in 10 homes is empty here) and a very low household income, relative to the rest of Idaho.

  These Are The 10 Snobbiest Places In Idaho

On the bright side, Sandpoint’s education ranking is one of the highest in the Gem State.

10. Rathdrum

Source: Flickr user Jim J.

Sunny days: 6th lowest number in Idaho
Unemployment: 10th worst in the state

Tiny Rathdrum, a Coeur d’Alene suburb, rounds out the list as the tenth worst place to live in Idaho. While it has an an average crime rate, education ranking and household income levels, it’s unemployment rate is very high.

Incidentally, Coeur d’Alene came in 11th worst on the list, mostly due to it’s high unemployment rate, longer commute times and below average education ranking.

There You Have It

It seems as if Boise suburbs are the worst places to live in Idaho, despite the fact that Boise itself ranked as the 10th best place to live in Idaho.

Meridian, Idaho, a Boise suburb with a population of 75,210, ranked as the best place to live in Idaho, edging Moscow.

Again, for a link to how we compiled the data, click here.

Disclaimer: This article is an opinion based on data. It should not be taken as fact.

We also wrote about the 10 Drunkest Cities In Idaho if you want to read that story.

Worst Places To Live In Idaho, Detailed Tabble

City Population Worst Place Score Rank
Middleton 5542 26.06 1
Caldwell 46229 24.38 2
Payette 7462 23.38 3
Mountain Home 13879 22.5 4
Nampa 81667 22.31 5
Emmett 6555 21.75 6
Weiser 5469 21.69 7
Pocatello 54145 20.81 8
Sandpoint 7397 20.5 9
Rathdrum 6840 20.38 10
Coeur D’Alene 44426 20 11
Burley 10157 19.5 12
Idaho Falls 57021 19.5 12
Star 5745 19.19 14
Jerome 10757 18.75 15
Blackfoot 11781 18.56 16
Post Falls 27609 18.5 17
Preston 5162 17.63 18
Hayden 13258 17.5 19
Buhl 4122 17.38 20
Chubbuck 13773 17.25 21
Fruitland 4678 17.13 22
Twin Falls 44097 17.06 23
Garden City 11095 16.31 24
Ammon 13575 16.25 25
American Falls 4382 16.19 26
Boise City 208332 16.06 27
Kuna 15192 15.56 28
Eagle 19952 15.44 29
Lewiston 31862 15.13 30
Rexburg 25402 14.69 31
Shelley 4384 14.56 32
Rupert 5496 14.5 33
Hailey 7905 13.69 34
Moscow 23866 12.38 35
Meridian 75210 11.38 36

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51 thoughts on “These Are The 10 Worst Places To Live In Idaho

  1. Obviously you don’t live in one of these towns. There’s something called “quality of life” and the majority of the people in these towns appreciate that. Friendly, helpful, and supportive describe the people and a more relaxed life is a lot more healthy than fighting the traffic in those larger city. I’ll take Emmett any day.

  2. Did your survey speak to any residents of the cities you evaluated? I would think their feedback would be valuable input to factor in if u want a realistic study. I’ve lived in Middleton for 9 years and love the peace and quiet I get from the ‘wide open spaces’, less light and air pollution. Great peace of mind to sometimes look out on the pastures, corn fields and I know what it means when I hear the song phrase about amber waves of grain – not to mention the comfort I feel when I hear my horse call out in the morning to greet me each day with a hardy hello. So many intangibles you missed. What a shame!

    1. I’ve lived in Middleton for 14 years and commuted to a job in Boise for the first 9 of them. I’m now a stay-home-mom of two. I thought the last comment about people commuting in the future was funny. As though no one does that now. If you are comparing our small town living to people who want city living then your correct – Middleton is not for them. We that prefer a quieter place to live away from our city jobs, it’s heaven.

      1. Totally agree. I like the wide open spaces. How about peace and quiet? I was raised and have lived in big cities for most of my life and I wouldn’t want to trade my experience for all the data or time that was taken to develop the survey results. I love being able to see a ton of stars on a no moon night and the people are really nice for the
        Most part.

  3. You means to conclusions is errant. You failed in fidelity of what points were qualified and subsequently quantified. Using Boise as part of this equation is additionally flawed and shows nothing more than bias regarding exactly which qualifying comparitors justified your conclusions. This was further compounded by your editorialized take on an erroneously drawn conclusion. I would suggest that any would be reader, reference the Pew reports and come to a better educated conclusion as to what town or city would help them best enjoy their stay.

  4. I would prefer that you left Population Density off of your criteria and then republish your list.

    The reason people live in some of these cities is because of low population density, which makes them more desirable.

  5. Obviously, the fact that Rathdrum’s high school was just ranked number one in the state for academics has no value in this survey. Wow, guys. Just wow.

  6. I fail to see how the distance away from boise has anything to do with determining the “best” place to live. You could have been way more specific with your analysis and have the same data listed for all the cities on your list. Maybe I want to know the unemployment rate for Pocatello as well as Sandpoint! I believe many people agree with me in saying, your survey has many flaws.

  7. I have lived in Idaho for nine years. I think anything south of Boise is the pits. It is dry, desert like, horrible education systems (Idaho ranks 49th in a lot of things such as education), unfriendly, fifth worse state to live in as an animal, horribly conservative, most towns are small and pretty much dumpy, 85% Mormon so if a person isn’t one it is hard to find a job, has polls showing they are the rudest and worse drivers in the country, and the list goes on. Don’t think of visiting southern Idaho unless you are white, Mormon and conservative.

    1. You obviously have never explored southern Idaho. Try getting off the freeway and take the back roads. There’s so much to explore and a lot of beauty to see.

    2. Your comments are as ignorant as this article. Living in Pocatello (which I love!) I have known plenty of non-Mormons and guess what….they are employed! People who say that drive me nuts because you obviously have never lived anywhere outside of your little bubble of black unicorns. I also love the beautiful parks and drives. Thank you for keeping your liberal ignorance up north.

    3. I am white, Mormon and conservative and I live in south-east Idaho. The people here are reserved and mostly mind their own business. I rather like it that way. But, I’ll tell you, whenever anyone is in need, and I mean anyone, they will do everything possible to help them. Crime here is ZERO. They may not be the most gregarious and lively bunch around, but they are some of the safest and kindest people around. And, with no exceptions I have ever seen, at least their youth keep their pants pulled up.

      1. Appreciate what you have to say.
        I’m from (a conservative area in) California.
        Yes, there are still a few of us who are not flaming
        liberals. Thank you

    4. Man, you’re right. Idaho stinks. Don’t move here. We are a bunch of rednecks. We live in small towns. We cling to our Bibles and guns. (gasp!) Wide open spaces without people is awful and oh so lonely. Small schools and small classrooms are the worst. Unlocked doors and freedom are certainly not the American values we want to have. Fresh air and low crime rates are horrible things to wake up to every day. Yup, stay outta Idaho. That’s just the way we like it.

    5. That is way uncorrect I’ve lived there and all over for 20 years and I assure u are wrong but have your right to your opinion

    6. It’s actually the exact opposite of almost everything you mentioned. Idaho ranks #1 in best drivers, Utah is #50 oddly enough.

      Although thick with Mormons, 85% is about 70% high until you get to Idaho Falls.

      Finding a job in the Magic Valley is pretty easy right now, our unemployment is <3%.

      For being "rude conservatives" is kinda odd that we've welcomed thousands of Islamic refugees.

      And for being dumpy and horribly conservative, about 500 Californians moving in by the month would disagree.

      Notice, not a single southern Idaho town was mentioned. Not 1.

  8. I relocated to Weiser, Id. In 2006, from a large congested city. I think your ranking is missing many good facts. Friendly people who are willing to help their fellow man when needed. Kindness over flowing
    I find these to be qualities you would not want to pass up
    Sorry you census is incorrect.

    1. I grew up in California. I used to see bumper stickers
      on cars that said “Welcome to California, now go home.”
      and I did not appreciate it. It would be dreadful to
      relocate to a state where I don’t feel welcome. I
      would only relocate to a state where my patriotic and
      moral values would fit in. I truly hope that wherever
      I relocate to, that I would feel welcome and be in harmony
      with those around me. Thank you

  9. I love living in Idaho it is the state I was born in and have not found other state with so much fun thinks to do. I live in the Boise would never say bad stuff about other city’s in Idaho.

  10. Whoever wrote this obviously doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Great journalism guy. Find a new career

  11. Nick, your “data” aka CRAP I’d full of biased & typical snooty Boisean stereotypes. Pull your head out of your butt & get a life!

  12. Ok let’s be honest Idaho I’d maybe the least known state. People are always asking me “where’s Idaho?”. It is also the lowest on the employment chain. Thus is why we moved but Idaho is so beautiful. It was the most filmed state in one of the largest TV shows, X-Files. It is also home to the most Submarine testings in the U.S. Many of the facts in this post are wrong. Check your facts.

  13. Shhhh…. just let people think this is true. We know better but we want to keep Middleton small and we can’t have everyone knowing how great it is to live here.

  14. There used to be a sign on the Idaho side of the border, just north of Jackpot, said
    “All Californians entering Idaho must be dipped”.

    Plainly, that sign’s been taken down.

    1. “All Californians entering Idaho must be dipped”
      I live in California and I am not dipped. (in my opinion).
      I am patriotic, quiet, love good conversation, love
      animals, nature. I do not appreciate how our liberal
      legislatures in California are destroying our Second Amendment
      rights etc. and am searching for possible relocation
      to a conservative area where I can afford to live in a
      Senior Mobile Home Park, but I don’t want to relocate
      to Idaho unless I am welcome. Researched Arizona,
      Colorado, New Mexico, and crossed them off my list.
      I do not smoke, drink, nor do drugs of any kind. I
      hope if I decide to relocate to Idaho that I will be welcome.

  15. O.k. There are a lot of pros and cons about Idaho. I wasn’t born here but have been here almost all my life. I am a country boy, well traveled, educated in private schools most of my school years. I have a broad experience back ground and I am pretty open minded.
    Idaho in general is a behind the times, closed minded, tight knit, clickish, state that operates mostly on the good ole boy system. According to a news story some of the most corrupt police agencies and judicial systems reside right here in Idaho.
    With all that said I have stayed here because I love everything from the high mountain desert to the mountains and forests. I used to be an avid hunter, loved fishing, and exploring the rich history of the pioneers, settlers. I distance myself from the politics other than voting on the issues and for change to make things better. I grew up with friends that became policemen, and I know judges and lawyers and most of all hard working people from country life and industry, techie fields. There are all kinds of diversity of life here. I don’t think your data holds up in the real areas that matter. There is a reason I have stayed here, always came back home. Sure there are short comings but the quality of life here is unbeatable. You just have to find you niche that suits you and don’t worry about the rest.

  16. I lived in California for 58 years. Visited Idaho for 4 days and fell in love with the people, how polite and helpful, the young people not disrespectful, not using fowl language. Drivers are polite. People here know what customer service means. I wouldn’t ove back to California if someone have me a million dollars. The state is beautiful.

  17. I was raised in Heyburn. I was raised on a farm. I worked as a kid hard almost every day. The landscape was beautiful. Camping and mountains and Lake swimming was the best. Especially with your own horse. I grew up not knowing every kid didn’t have their own horse. Motorcycle. Snowmobile. Their own vehicle at age 15. I’m glad I was raised where I was. I would rather go camping then to a bar. People still think I’m weird because if someone needs help I do it. If they need something I can give I do. I leave my keys in my car and my word is more valuable then money to me. I still have two Jobs to this day. I live very nice but still love to work hard. Thanks Idaho for helping make who I am today.

  18. Whoever moved here into my neighborhood and is littering in front of my house – fire your parents and go away. I have been here more than a year. Loved it at first. Now I see bad drivers, changes in attitude, overwhelming materialism, dwindling farmland. Shudder to think of the next 20 years.

  19. Idaho is terrible. No need to rank the cities in terms of best-to-worst. They all suck. I can’t wait to move out of this dump. People are closed minded. “Oh you think Idaho sucks, well you must be stupid!” Example, comments. People here are judgmental. “Oh you’re a California boy? Get out of our state.” Example, comments. People here aren’t educated, and clearly can’t read. The very last line clearly states, “Disclaimer: This article is an opinion based on data. It should not be taken as fact.” Which obviously no one bothered to read before blasting the writer. They just saw their city on the list and started flipping out. No jobs, nothing to do unless you hunt and fish, terrible, terrible, terrible leaders and education system. If you don’t follow the good ol’ boy mindset and have your own independent thoughts you’re looked at like the scum of the earth. And if you’re not Mormon, it’s even worse. I was born and raised in Idaho, and can’t wait to get the hell out. The comments on this article are a great example of why. The only positive is it’s extremely cheap to live here (because no one wants to) so it’s great if you’re a college student trying to finish your degree and get the hell out.

  20. I was born in Napma, raised on a farm in Homedale, went to school in Marsing, graduated from Weiser and then moved to Moscow. I kind of agree with the article, which does state it is opinion based! I certainly prefer northern Idaho to southern for sure. I definitely feel safer in norther Idaho than southern, people are more friendly too. Collage kids work at McDonalds, not the usual meth-head that you will find in the Treasure Valley! At least they have a job, though… 😉

  21. I live in a small town Idaho, and I noticed that they didn’t even mention a town smaller then 900. We still have Cambridge, Midvale, New Meadows, Salmon River, Council, Etc.

  22. I appreciate the publicity, hopefully it will keep the folks that don’t like our way of living away. We sure don’t need them to come and really find out what it is like here, they would probably decide to stay

  23. I’ve lived in California for 55 years, my whole life. My wife and I visited Nampa and fell in love with it and the state of Idaho. I have one thing to say about living in California, it sucks. I’m so tired of its liberal, entitlement mentality. I am a conservative and need what Idaho has to offer. A relaxed lifestyle, wide open spaces and nice people. Idaho to us will be heaven. We have purchased a house in Nampa and are moving there in September. The liberals can have California.

    1. Thank you. That’s encouraging. I am 69 years old and
      a quiet conservative individual. I live in a small town in
      California in Kern County in a very nice adult mobile home
      park which is quite affordable on my retirement income.
      I am pretty happy where I am living but am not happy
      with the liberal present and future of California.
      I hope, if I decide to relocate to Idaho, that I will feel
      welcome. Thank you

      1. Hi Jean. We have moved to our new house in Nampa Idaho. There are some folks that don’t appreciate Californians coming to Idaho. But for the most part they are very welcoming and friendly. If you do consider moving to the great state of Idaho I’m sure you will find it most enjoyable.

  24. i am 64 and was born in california and lived there for 64 years. i have tried several times to get out with job interviews in wyoming. colorado and utah and every time i was sucked back to hell. i hate this place and will try again to get out. i know what people of other states feel about cali people esp. in portland ore. there is a civil disturbance coming and soon. i want civilians with guns,and know how to use them and defend their property. i play guitar, drink beer, cuss and go to church, not necessarily in that order. idaho is my next adventure. i know most are saying not in my town. to the good people of idaho i say howdy and see ya soon. to the stay awayers i say kiss my ^$$ you stupid ignorant goat 6-21-03-11-5-18-19

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