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:
- Caldwell (Photos)
- Payette (Photos)
- Mountain Home (Photos)
- Nampa (Photos)
- Emmett (Photos)
- Weiser (Photos)
- Pocatello (Photos)
- Sandpoint (Photos)
- Rathdrum (Photos)
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and how your town ranked.
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.
Median income: $41,556
Crime: 13th worst 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.
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.
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
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.
Crime: 9th worst in Idaho
Commute time: 23 minutes
Student-teacher ratio: 4th lowest 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.
Median income: $27,853
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.
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.
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.
House vacancy rate: 11.69%
Median household income: $38,519
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.
On the bright side, Sandpoint’s education ranking is one of the highest in the Gem State.
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|