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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:
What? Where are these places you wonder? And before you get all riled up and say we're picking on small town America, that's not the case.
We understand there's a lot of good in every place.
However, according to data (which doesn't measure things like beauty and 'friendly people'), there are far better options in the state for making a place home. And the worst place to live in Idaho? That would be Caldwell.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2021.
For more Idaho reading, check out:
The 10 Worst Places To Live In Idaho For 2021
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.
Additionally, 16.5% of the population lives below the poverty line.
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 Idaho.
If commute time is important, Emmett residents have the 3rd longest commute of any residents on our list.
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.
Nampa places 4th in our ranking of the worst places to live in Idaho.
Nampa has worse crime and much higher unemployment than its neighbor, Boise.
While Nampa's unemployment rate is lower than average, its residents earn about $10,000 less a year than residents of Boise at $48,846.
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.
There seems to be a pattern here, as Payette, another city on the western side of the Boise-Nampa area, ranks as the 6th-worst place to live in Idaho, according to the data.
Payette (population 7,487), which is about an hour drive north of Boise. The average household income here is less than most other cities in the state (10th lowest), 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.
When you're looking at the worst places you could live in Idaho, Blackfoot ranks 7th worst. Let's see why.
Here in Blackfoot, crime is the 5th highest in the state, and 1 out of 47.1 residents was robbed here according to the latest FBI numbers.
That's not the first place you think of making home, is it?
Additionally, you have a 1 in 283 chance of being the victim of a violent crime, which includes rapes, attacks or murders. That's really high.
When you look at adult education in Idaho, the folks in Blackfoot have the 17th highest drop out rate. And other factors that make Blackfoot undesirable are the low median incomes and home prices.
The unemployment rate is the 8th highest in Idaho, at 5.3%. That's actually on par with the national average, which means Idaho has some hard workers.
When you're looking at science and data, the city of Jerome is the 8th worst place you can live in the state of Idaho. Let's see why.
Residents who live in Jerome, located in Jerome County, have the 16th most crimes in the state committed against them. Factor in a much-lower income level--per resident--and homes valued around $128,800, and you've got yourself a crummy place to live. In terms of comparing it to the rest of Idaho, that is.
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.
While numbers in Idaho are clearly better when you compare them to the rest of the nation, the fact is when you compare Idaho cities against one another, you see big differences.
Home values in Twin Falls average $162,000, which is the 12th lowest in the state. Say what you want about 'cheap living,' the fact is homes are priced by demand, and there's not a lot of demand to live in Twin Falls.
Plus, 14.8% of the population here lives below the poverty line.
Plus, the crime rate is the 4th highest in the state here. Every year, when you're within Twin Falls city limits, you have a 1 in 47.3 chance of being robbed. That's a lot of broken into cars and homes.
How we determined the worst places to live in Idaho 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 don't think it's a stretch to assume that people like the following things:
- Good education
- Lots of jobs
- Low crime
- Low poverty
- Nice homes
- High incomes
- High population density (Lots of things to do)
- Short work commutes
- Health insurance
We broke crime down into violent crime and property crime to give violent crime a larger weight -- if you did a simple calculation of all crimes per capita, property crimes are normally 7x more common and really bias that ranking.
Furthermore, only cities with at least 5,000 people were considered -- leaving 31 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 31 for all the criteria with a #1 ranking being the worst for the particular criteria.
Next, we averaged the rankings into one "Worst Place To Live Score".
Finally, we ranked every city on the "Worst Place To Live Score" with the lowest score being the worst city in Idaho -- Caldwell. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in Idaho. You can download the data here.
This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased.
Wrapping Up The Worst In Idaho
If you're looking at areas in Idaho with the worst economic situations, where there's higher than average crime, and not a lot to do, this is an accurate list.
And in the end, Caldwell ranks as the worst city to live in Idaho for 2021.
If you're curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Idaho:
- Rexburg (Pop. 28,414)
- Moscow (Pop. 25,319)
- Meridian (Pop. 101,905)
For more Idaho reading, check out:
Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Idaho?