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:
- Steele City
- Blue Springs
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.
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.
1. Steele City
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.
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.
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
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2nd Best: Panama
3rd Best: Murdock
For more Nebraska reading, check out:
- If You’re From Nebraska This Will Be The Most Jaw-Dropping Thing You See All Day. Guaranteed.
- These Are The 10 Drunkest Cities In Nebraska
- These Are The 10 Most Redneck Cities In Nebraska
Ranking Of The 100 Worst Small Towns In Nebraska