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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 2020.
For more Idaho reading, check out:
The 10 Worst Places To Live In Idaho For 2020
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, 17.0% of the population lives below the poverty line.
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 11th-highest crime rates in Idaho. So at least no one beats you up while you look for a job.
Nampa places 3rd 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 $44,691.
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.
The city of Jerome is the 6th worst place you can live in the state of Idaho in 2020.
It's unlucky for Jerome, which has the 24th highest unemployment rate (2.8%), the 6th lowest household incomes ($39,895) and the 4th lowest home prices in the state ($116,900).
Basically, a lot of people in Jerome are out of work. And crime is certainly a factor here as well. Although it's not one of the most dangerous places we'll look at, it's in the top 20%.
Add it all up, and this is truly one of the worst places you could live in Idaho.
Here in Rupert, you have some of the highest crime and the highest unemployment rates in Idaho. That's not a good combination.
Located in Minidoka County, you have a 1 in 60.2 chance of being the victim of a property crime when inside Rupert city limits every year. Some of those crimes might be due to the relatively high unemployment rate (2.2%). That's good for the 27th highest unemployment rate in Idaho.
The unemployment rate in Burley is a sky high 2.5%, which is the 26th highest in the state. Ouch.
The median income in Burley is $41,773. That means 20.6% of the population is living below the poverty line. Crime isn't horrible here, but you have a 1 in 52.1 chance of being the victim of a property crime when you're within city limits every year.
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.
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.
How we determined the worst places to live in Idaho for 2020
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 2020.
If you're curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Idaho:
- Moscow (Pop. 25,174)
- Rexburg (Pop. 27,957)
- Meridian (Pop. 97,008)
For more Idaho reading, check out:
- Best Places To Retire In Idaho
- Richest Cities In Idaho
- Safest Places In Idaho
- Best Cities For Singles In Idaho
Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Idaho?