10 Small Towns In Nebraska Where You’d Never Want To Live


Using science and data, we can tell you which teeny specks in NE are the pits.

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Most Americans have never been to Nebraska. However, as the people who live there know, Nebraska is an awesome state.

But is it all roses? Definitely not. Just like any other state, Nebraska has its trouble spots. This article aims to determine, using science, the absolute worst small towns to live in the Cornhusker State. Don’t shoot the messenger, this is all using data.

After analyzing more than 310 of Nebraska’s smallest cities, we came up with this list as the 10 worst small towns in Nebraska where you’d never want to live:

  1. Steele City
  2. Wilsonville
  3. Brock
  4. Blue Springs
  5. Riverton
  6. Merriman
  7. Oakdale
  8. Hardy
  9. Oconto
  10. Henry

Of course, many of these cities would rank highly if they were in other states, since Nebraska has its stuff figured out.

Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers, or scroll to the bottom to see how your town ranked.

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How do you decide if a place is lousy or not?

In order to rank the worst small towns to live in Nebraska, we had to determine what criteria people like or dislike about a place. It isn’t a stretch to assume that people like low crime, solid education, things to do and a stable economy.

So we scraped the internet for those criteria, and it spit out the answer. Like magic.

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 Census’s 2010-2014 American Community Survey, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is the criteria we used:

  • Population Density (The lower the worse)
  • Highest Unemployment Rates
  • Low housing costs (meaning there’s no demand)
  • Adjusted Median Income (Median income adjusted for the cost of living)
  • Education (Number of high school dropouts)
  • High Crime

We looked at cities with populations between 100 and 1,000 people, of which, there were a lot – 310 to be exact.

Additional note: We get the crime numbers from the FBI, which gets its crime numbers from the cities themselves. Dropout numbers are based on the adult population, not just the current graduation rates of teenagers.

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1. Steele City

Steele City, Nebraska

Source: Google Maps

Population: 100
Median Income: $23,542
Median Home Price: $24,400

We begin our tour of small Nebraska towns that you’d never want to live in with Steele City, a teeny village with exactly 100 people. Want to make it 101? Might want to think twice about that one, mister.

This is the most dangerous small Nebraskan town of more than 300 that we measured. That’s saying a lot. If you lived here, you’d have a 1 in 27 chance of being a victim every year. That’s not too bad for other states, but for Nebraska, it’s really high.

More than 10% of folks here are out of work, and home prices are about $24,000 each.

Steele City is along Route 8 way down near the Kansas border.

2. Wilsonville

Wilsonville, Nebraska

Source: Google Maps

Population: 106
Median Income: $32,500
Median Home Price: $27,500

A short drive east of McCook along the Kansas border is the teeny village of Wilsonville, where the unemployment rate is even higher (14%) than it is in Steele City. Based on the number of businesses in and around the area, chances are if you moved here, you’d be out of work, too.

There are two post offices here (for some reason), and within driving distance are a handful of gun stores and thrift stores. So, while you might not have a decent job, you’d have some inexpensive weapons and clothes at your disposal.

3. Brock

Brock, Nebraska

Source: Google Maps

Population: 140
Median Income: $23,333
Median Home Price: $33,900

You might want to call this place, “Broke, NE,” instead. Entire families here bring in less than the poverty level every year. Even in rural Nebraska, it would be hard to imagine anyone getting ahead – much less keeping their heads above water – on that type of income.

Crime is also one of the worst of all places we measured, and unless you’d consider farming (a very respectable career), you’d be hard pressed to find work (or fun) in this little place way down by the Iowa/Missouri border.

4. Blue Springs

Blue Springs, Nebraska

Source: Google Maps

Population: 317
Median Income: $30,536
Median Home Price: $33,300

More than 8% of Blue Springs residents are out of work, and more than 1 in 4 is a high school dropout. If you made this your home, not only would you be bored out of your mind, you’d be among a population that’s struggling to make ends meet, too.

For a decent meal, your options would be nearby Wymore (Pop. 1,457), which has a Subway, the Doghouse Restaurant, and Casey’s, where you could load up on carryout pizza and pop. Sound like a blast?

5. Riverton

Riverton, Nebraska

Source: Google Maps

Population: 92
Median Income: $23,750
Median Home Price: $22,500

We’re not knocking rural Nebraska. Heck, lots of these folks have more morals than most other Americans do. But there are far better areas to live in Nebraska than in places like Riverton, where crime is really bad, and where home prices actually cost less than what a family earns in an entire year.

Say what you want about cheap living. Homes are priced by demand, and the fact is, there’s absolutely no demand to live in Riverton, along Route 136 along the Kansas border.

So far, all of the cities we’ve covered are along the Kansas border. Is that a surprise?

6. Merriman

Merriman, Nebraska

Source: Google Maps

Population: 92
Median Income: $14,875
Median Home Price: $13,500

Welcome to Merriman, NE, the poorest place in all of Nebraska. We’re shocked that in today’s America, there are still small towns where entire families manage to get by on just $14,000 a year annually.

You might have enough in your checking account to make the plunge and snap up a home in Merriman this very day. If that’s the case, there are most likely some very eager homeowners here who would welcome you with open arms.

7. Oakdale

Oakdale, Nebraska

Source: Google Maps

Population: 328
Median Income: $24,028
Median Home Price: $25,500

If you took Route 275 west from Norfolk, eventually you’d pull into little ole’ Oakdale, Nebraska. If you’re looking for a stimulating place to lay down your roots, this certainly isn’t it.

While there are 328 hardy souls who reside here, odds are they’re bored out of their minds. In town is Johnny D’s restaurant and a post office, and that’s about it. Now, we’re sure Johnny can fry up some mean taters and all, but eventually, you’d want more in life. And you’d have to drive about 45 minutes in any direction to find it.

8. Hardy

Hardy, Nebraska

Source: Google Maps

Population: 188
Median Income: $34,167
Median Home Price: $17,500

Hardy is hardly a place for blood-pumpin’ fun. Another small town along the dusty Kansas state line, it’s a place where even people making minimum wage could afford a home. Good luck finding that job, though, because outside of The “Do Drop In” Restaurant, there aren’t many places for you to work your fingers to the bone.

Crime is also one of the highest of any small towns we measured.

9. Oconto

Oconto, Nebraska

Source: Google Maps

Population: 122
Median Income: $29,375
Median Home Price: $28,800

If you’re a church goer, Oconto boasts three churches within a 5 minute drive. And, considering there are two post offices in town, you can bet your mail would be delivered on time if you lived here.

However, unless you farmed the land, there’s a decent chance you’d be collecting unemployment or some other form of government assistance if this was your home. Sound like a possibility? Then you’d better start practicing those three-point turns in the tractor.

10. Henry

Henry, Nebraska

Source: Google Maps

Population: 148
Median Income: $16,750
Median Home Price: $41,000

We round out our tour of small Nebraska towns you’d never want to live in with Henry, a speck of a place along Route 26 way out on the Wyoming state line.

If you moved here, there’s a really good chance you’d live in poverty and/or make farming your career. But hey, if 148 people already made the plunge, it can’t be that bad, right?

There You Have It – The Worst Small Towns In Nebraska

If you’re analyzing teeny places in the Cornhusker State with the worst economic situations, where there’s high crime and there’s not a lot to do, this is an accurate list.

If you’re curious enough, here are the best small towns to live in Nebraska, according to science.

Best: Garland
2nd Best: Panama
3rd Best: Murdock
For more Nebraska reading, check out:

Ranking Of The 100 Worst Small Towns In Nebraska

City Rank Population Median Income Median Home Price
Steele City 1 100 $23,542 $24,400
Wilsonville 2 106 $32,500 $27,500
Brock 3 140 $23,333 $33,900
Blue Springs 4 317 $30,536 $33,300
Riverton 5 92 $23,750 $22,500
Merriman 6 92 $14,875 $13,500
Oakdale 7 328 $24,028 $25,500
Hardy 8 188 $34,167 $17,500
Oconto 9 122 $29,375 $28,800
Henry 10 148 $16,750 $41,000
Miller 11 119 $28,125 $40,700
Elk Creek 12 96 $37,500 $26,000
Ohiowa 13 73 $36,250 $14,200
Rulo 14 221 $35,000 $30,400
Beaver City 15 644 $23,125 $33,100
Humboldt 16 973 $24,464 $40,300
Ashton 17 241 $30,815 $41,700
Gresham 18 268 $29,063 $30,600
Comstock 19 91 $22,500 $28,300
Nemaha 20 149 $26,458 $29,000
Western 21 266 $38,750 $38,000
Santee 22 343 $17,443 $82,500
Craig 23 241 $31,964 $43,400
Campbell 24 326 $31,500 $37,500
Bushnell 25 153 $36,250 $45,000
Rushville 26 836 $28,458 $30,700
Table Rock 27 201 $39,135 $32,900
Alexandria 28 187 $36,250 $16,400
Shubert 29 156 $40,000 $28,700
Lyman 30 446 $32,083 $45,500
Madrid 31 326 $32,321 $59,200
Walthill 32 784 $37,188 $31,900
Wauneta 33 802 $33,688 $47,300
Guide Rock 34 212 $33,250 $25,200
Rosalie 35 206 $39,625 $33,400
Jansen 36 125 $40,833 $38,800
Holbrook 37 128 $36,875 $35,800
Bladen 38 283 $40,000 $38,200
Otoe 39 196 $38,125 $44,700
Nickerson 40 370 $27,500 $69,200
Salem 41 143 $38,036 $22,500
Stratton 42 427 $31,938 $43,100
Howard City 43 205 $28,750 $54,200
Belgrade 44 169 $25,833 $29,800
Sargent 45 701 $40,962 $34,000
Verdon 46 184 $40,417 $35,800
Wynot 47 128 $30,714 $42,900
North Loup 48 295 $26,875 $35,800
Bruno 49 150 $31,250 $45,600
Inman 50 99 $30,000 $33,100
Taylor 51 172 $32,500 $33,100
Anselmo 52 127 $36,250 $30,800
Dunbar 53 125 $30,000 $72,500
Linwood 54 97 $34,750 $42,500
Snyder 55 342 $42,639 $48,300
Melbeta 56 136 $14,792 $68,800
Holstein 57 201 $34,219 $55,500
Lewellen 58 176 $27,396 $44,400
Dawson 59 137 $45,000 $17,500
Fairfield 60 341 $34,044 $62,600
Byron 61 112 $24,167 $41,700
Marquette 62 224 $38,750 $56,300
Broadwater 63 163 $33,125 $22,800
Hay Springs 64 548 $24,792 $43,200
Farnam 65 155 $37,813 $46,000
Edgar 66 566 $27,292 $54,100
Tobias 67 129 $50,000 $43,600
Nelson 68 575 $29,706 $36,900
Ulysses 69 195 $36,250 $49,600
Decatur 70 461 $31,719 $60,800
Scotia 71 329 $30,536 $45,700
Carleton 72 70 $29,500 $51,300
Lynch 73 218 $32,188 $31,100
Filley 74 114 $33,750 $64,200
Butte 75 321 $26,818 $30,200
Trenton 76 628 $31,875 $38,300
Farwell 77 108 $35,000 $42,500
Edison 78 84 $31,250 $26,900
Wolbach 79 283 $41,250 $39,300
Rockville 80 152 $43,750 $26,900
Orleans 81 454 $40,417 $43,500
Meadow Grove 82 325 $43,929 $47,000
Alda 83 635 $38,214 $60,000
Orchard 84 428 $34,375 $45,000
Diller 85 199 $37,750 $55,000
Crawford 86 948 $31,705 $59,000
Long Pine 87 419 $41,250 $47,000
Venango 88 126 $41,250 $38,400
Palisade 89 445 $49,125 $41,500
Bartley 90 259 $39,531 $59,100
Chester 91 314 $32,969 $37,500
Phillips 92 250 $46,875 $61,400
Creston 93 216 $40,500 $45,400
Davenport 94 295 $42,656 $41,300
Stamford 95 235 $42,500 $42,300
Palmer 96 553 $37,778 $57,000
Pawnee City 97 804 $32,969 $50,300
Eddyville 98 138 $43,542 $45,000
Overton 99 695 $37,500 $65,900
Minatare 100 929 $36,500 $55,000

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