When you think of Washington, you normally think of Seattle, rain, and beautiful mountains.
What you don’t normally think about are the potential stink holes that are around the mountains.
So we dug in and did the dirty work for you to figure out where the worst places to live are in the Evergreen State.
The following are the worst, not so evergreen places in Washington:
- Shelton (Photos)
- Union Gap
- Centralia (Photos)
- Aberdeen (Photos)
- Airway Heights
- Hoquiam (Photos)
- Toppenish (Photos)
- Tukwila (Photos)
- Quincy (Photos)
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. Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2018.
How we determined the worst places to live in Washington for 2018
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 5,100 people were considered — leaving 118 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 118 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 Washington — Shelton. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in Washington.
This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased.
Population: 9,832Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Home Values: $150,400 (16th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.6% (14th worst)
While numbers in Washington are clearly better when you compare them to the rest of the nation, the fact is when you compare Washington cities against one another, you see big differences.
Home values in Shelton average $150,400, which is the 16th 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 Shelton.
Plus, 2430.0% of the population here lives below the poverty line.
Plus, the crime rate is the 22nd highest in the state here. Every year, when you’re within Shelton city limits, you have a 1 in 16.4 chance of being robbed. That’s a lot of broken into cars and homes.
Population: 11,871 Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Home Values: $120,700 (8th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 14.7% (3rd worst)
Located in southwest Washington close to Mount St. Helens, Kelso ranks as the most unlivable place in Cowlitz County.
The city scored poorly across the board for the criteria we analyzed, with the exception of having an excellent commute time.
It seems that people in the cities on our list are much more likely on average to find ways to get out.
3. Union Gap
Population: 6,125 Rank Last Year: 3 (No Change)
Home Values: $93,700 (1st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 5.7% (80th worst)
Union Gap is the 4th most dangerous place in the state of Washington. That’s part of the reason it’s the 3rd worst place in Washington.
The fact remains, that when you’re within Union Gap city limits, you have a 1 in 8.5 chance of being robbed or having something you own vandalized.Does that sound like a fun place to live?
Did you know Union Gap also has the 80th highest unemployment rate in the state at 5.7%? Or that homes are only valued at $93,700?
Say what you want about cheap living. The fact is, homes are priced by demand, and there’s little demand to live in Union Gap.
Population: 16,729Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 5)
Home Values: $148,900 (15th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.5% (23rd worst)
Centralia was the site of an infamous massacre in 1919 and now it has massacred the competition when it comes to being the worst place to live in Washington.
The mix of extremely high unemployment and crime is a winning combination to end up high on our list of worst places to live. Centralia resides in the worst 10% of both categories.
On the plus side, those who do a job have a relatively short commute to work as the median commute time for people in Centralia is the top 20% of places in Washington.
Population: 16,335Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
Home Values: $120,200 (7th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 8.6% (28th worst)
Aberdeen ranks as the 5th worst place to live in Washington.
Known as the ‘Gateway to the Olympic Peninsula’ it seems as if the nickname might want to add ‘Gateway to high unemployment’ as it ranks as the 28th worst in the State.
That being said, the spending on childhood education in the city is higher than the state average and the weather is about average for Washington.
6. Airway Heights
Population: 6,523 Rank Last Year: 23 (Up 17)
Home Values: $150,800 (17th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.9% (18th worst)
Most of the rest of the cities on this list deserve to be on here due to their high crime numbers. Airway Heights is the 6th most dangerous city in Washington, according to the FBI. Residents had a 1 in 12.8 chance of being the victim of a property crime. That’s really high for Washington, but not even the highest in the state.
Home values are the 17th cheapest in the state, and income levels are almost as low as you can get. Households in Airway Heights bring in just under $42,014 a year annually.
Population: 8,434Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 3)
Home Values: $96,600 (2nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 13.2% (4th worst)
When you’re looking at the worst places you could live in Washington, Hoquiam came in 7th. Let’s see why.
When you’re comparing the unemployment rate to the rest of the nation, Washington residents are very hard workers. But when comparing the unemployment rate among cities in Washington, you can see some really big differences. In Hoquiam, the number of people out of work is 13.2%
In Washington, that’s the 4th highest in the state.
The residents in Hoquiam have the 11th lowest incomes in the state. Folks in Hoquiam average $37,628 a year. Which isn’t too shabby in comparison to the other ‘lowest’ income cities in most other states.
Additionally, the homes are valued at $96,600 on average. That’s the 2nd lowest in the state.
Population: 8,977Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 3)
Home Values: $114,100 (4th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.7% (20th worst)
Toppenish places 8th in our ranking of the worst places to live in Washington.
You can imagine it’s a pretty simple life down there. Which is fine, unless you look closely at the data.
Homes are the 4th cheapest in the state, and at $114,100, just about anyone with a pulse can buy a home here. However, the unemployment rate (9.7%) is the 20th highest in Washington, and income levels are far below the state average. And 3410.0% of the population lives below the poverty line.
Would you have guessed that the area around Toppenish has one of the highest crime rates, per capita in Washington?
Population: 19,878Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 1)
Home Values: $248,600 (65th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.4% (47th worst)
When you’re looking at things from purely a scientific standpoint, Tukwila is the 9th worst place in the state of Washington.
The U.S. defines the poverty line at $24,600 a year for a family of four. Tukwila is right on the verge of that when you look at what the average citizen there earns a year. And the home values are eye-opening low. On average, the home value in Tukwila are the 65th lowest in the entire state.
And when you factor in high crime and a high tax rate, it really can’t get much worse in Washington.
Population: 7,248Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 5)
Home Values: $133,500 (11th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 12.8% (6th worst)
There are some bad places to live and some really, really bad places to live. According to the data, Quincy is one of the worst places you can live in Washington. And quite possibly, one of the worst places you can live in, period. Let’s see why.
We’re not economists, but when you have a 12.8% unemployment rate for a city of 7,248 people, that’s a sign that things aren’t just bad. They are downright depressing.
Wrapping Up The Worst In Washington
If you’re looking at areas in Washington 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, Shelton ranks as the worst city to live in Washington for 2018.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Washington:
- Mercer Island (Pop. 24,467)
- Sammamish (Pop. 62,136)
- Newcastle (Pop. 11,189)
For more Washington reading, check out:
- 10 Small Towns In Washington Where You’d Never Want To Live
- These Are The 10 Most Redneck Cities In Washington
- These Are The 10 Most Ghetto Cities In Washington
Detailed List Of The Worst Cities In Washington