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


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

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

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

After analyzing more than 223 of Wisconsin’s smallest cities, we came up with this list as the 10 worst small towns in Wisconsin where you’d never want to live:

  1. Fairchild
  2. Elderon
  3. Aniwa
  4. Bell Center
  5. Mattoon
  6. Eland
  7. Sheldon
  8. Bruce
  9. Soldiers Grove
  10. Steuben

Of course, many of these cities would rank highly if they were in other states, since Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin, 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 – 223 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. Fairchild

Fairchild, Wisconsin

Source: Google Maps

Population: 483
Median Income: $25,781
Median Home Price: $69,000

We begin our tour of small towns in Wisconsin that you wouldn’t want to live in with Fairchild, a teeny little village along Route 12 southeast of Eau Claire. If you lived here, at least you’d be able to truck into Eau Claire for work or a hot meal, but in the village proper is quite lacking in amenities.

Families bring in about $25,000 a year annually, which is right at the poverty line. Plus, only 7 in 10 people here completed high school. So if Fairchild was your home, you’d be broke and among an unstimulating population.

2. Elderon

Elderon, Wisconsin

Source: Google Maps

Population: 148
Median Income: $31,563
Median Home Price: $62,000

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We know Wisconsinites like to drink, and if you lived in Elderon, you’d have your choice of two bars in town – Mama’s Place or Mark’s Bar. We’re sure Mama and Mark are both salt of the earth, but you can only spend so many hours elbowed up to the bar before a town this small would become just plain unbearable.

Elderon is the 9th most dangerous small town in Wisconsin, where you’d have a 1 in 32 chance of being the victim of a crime each year. And there’s a reason homes only cost $62,000 each.

To get there, you’d take Highway 29 out of Wausau for about a half hour.

3. Aniwa

Aniwa, Wisconsin

Source: Google Maps

Population: 273
Median Income: $30,313
Median Home Price: $82,700

About the same distance, but in the other direction from Wausau, is the teeny little speck of Aniwa. 30% of the population is a high school dropout, and 7.6% are unemployed. Odds are if you lived here, you’d have trouble getting ahead yourself.

For fun, you’d have to throw back Milwaukee Lights at The Little Rock Bar all afternoon. They don’t have a website or a Facebook page, so you’re on your own in terms of what to expect.

4. Bell Center

Bell Center, Wisconsin

Source: Google Maps

Population: 150
Median Income: $29,219
Median Home Price: $67,100

Bell Center, WI is certainly not the center of excitement. In fact, it’s very rare that Google Street View doesn’t venture into a community, but the photo above is as close as we can get to this teeny tiny place way down by the Iowa border.

We’re sure the hunting is great down there, but you’d also have to deal with dirt roads, high crime and the least densely populated place in the state.

5. Mattoon

Mattoon, Wisconsin

Source: Google Maps

Population: 375
Median Income: $40,938
Median Home Price: $65,600

Located just outside the borders of the Menominee Reservation in central Wisconsin is the village of Mattoon. If you lived here, you’d have a tough go at it job wise. 1 in 10 residents is already out of work, helped by the fact that more than 30% of the population is a dropout.

If you have $65,000 to spend on a home in a place with high crime and an hour’s drive away from a decent job, there are probably a couple hundred home owners in Mattoon who would like to speak with you.

6. Eland

Eland, Wisconsin

Source: Google Maps

Population: 266
Median Income: $36,250
Median Home Price: $88,100

The next two cities on this list have even higher dropout rates. Here in Eland, a third of the community never finished 12th grade, and more than 10% are chronically unemployed. If you lived here, you might be in the same boat, and you might find yourself driving to Wittenberg, WI to work at A&W or McDonald’s.

7. Sheldon

Sheldon, Wisconsin

Source: Google Maps

Population: 260
Median Income: $18,958
Median Home Price: $68,600

Little Sheldon is the poorest community to make this list. Families bring in an astoundingly low $19,000 a year in combined incomes. Growing up in rural Wisconsin can have its perks, and money can go a lot further here. But it would be very hard to imagine you getting ahead if you lived in Sheldon.

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For a hot meal every now and then, you’d have to schlep a place called The Boar’s Nest in Conrath, WI. They specialize in smoked meats and loaded Bloody Marys. So at least you’d have that in your favor.

8. Bruce

Bruce, Wisconsin

Source: Google Maps

Population: 810
Median Income: $26,027
Median Home Price: $75,700

Now there’s a real boom town! Bruce is the largest city to make this list, so at least if you ended up living here, you’d have plenty of people with which to console with.

Bruce ranks as the 14th most dangerous place in the state, and has the 2nd highest unemployment rate (15%) of more than 250 small towns we measured. As a newcomer in town, there’s not a chance in hell you’d land that bartending gig at Glory B’s Corner Saloon.

9. Soldiers Grove

Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin

Source: Google Maps

Population: 555
Median Income: $26,389
Median Home Price: $90,000

About halfway between La Crosse and Prairie du Chien is the speck of a place called Soldiers Grove. Incomes are the 3rd lowest of any place we measured, but home prices are the most expensive. Meaning you’d be overpaying quite a bit to live in the middle of nowhere.

On the bright side, there are three bars in town.

10. Steuben

Steuben, Wisconsin

Source: Google Maps

Population: 154
Median Income: $32,750
Median Home Price: $66,700

We round out our tour of small Wisconsin towns where you’d never want to live with Steuben, a blip of a place in the rolling hills near the Iowa border. There are only 25 people per square mile here, and about 150 in town total.

Crime is the 7th highest of all small Wisconsin towns, and homes are the 9th cheapest. So if you were an adventurous type who didn’t mind tons of peace and quiet, you could pack up and head on out here.

But don’t say we didn’t warn you first.

There You Have It – The Worst Small Towns In Wisconsin

If you’re analyzing teeny places in the Badger 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 Wisconsin, according to science.

Best: North Bay
2nd Best: Hewitt
3rd Best: Park Ridge
For more Wisconsin reading , check out:

Ranking Of The 100 Worst Small Towns In Wisconsin

City Rank Population Median Income Median Home Price
Fairchild 1 483 $25,781 $69,000
Elderon 2 148 $31,563 $62,000
Aniwa 3 273 $30,313 $82,700
Bell Center 4 150 $29,219 $67,100
Mattoon 5 375 $40,938 $65,600
Eland 6 266 $36,250 $88,100
Sheldon 7 260 $18,958 $68,600
Bruce 8 810 $26,027 $75,700
Soldiers Grove 9 555 $26,389 $90,000
Steuben 10 154 $32,750 $66,700
Curtiss 11 255 $26,000 $97,000
Winter 12 412 $16,875 $63,800
Hawkins 13 337 $33,214 $70,800
Lohrville 14 420 $34,205 $85,200
Wheeler 15 343 $27,778 $87,700
Lime Ridge 16 247 $45,714 $79,500
Suring 17 441 $32,266 $80,800
Exeland 18 159 $35,417 $91,000
Weyerhaeuser 19 297 $28,875 $71,300
Lynxville 20 170 $34,821 $77,200
Unity 21 369 $39,583 $76,300
Dallas 22 410 $28,438 $77,000
Conrath 23 113 $16,622 $58,600
South Wayne 24 462 $28,269 $80,700
Ontario 25 507 $30,521 $61,500
White Lake 26 338 $34,097 $89,600
Arpin 27 312 $36,500 $76,400
Mellen 28 761 $31,522 $57,300
Clayton 29 665 $38,188 $113,900
Radisson 30 182 $34,250 $70,000
Rewey 31 265 $30,313 $68,300
Kennan 32 106 $46,250 $78,300
Wild Rose 33 680 $31,736 $90,300
Gresham 34 549 $34,792 $83,300
Taylor 35 384 $30,865 $71,300
Norwalk 36 743 $44,167 $73,700
Wausaukee 37 604 $29,375 $89,300
Siren 38 837 $29,792 $115,400
Gratiot 39 199 $40,625 $68,200
Nichols 40 113 $26,250 $75,000
Knapp 41 407 $30,000 $107,600
Montreal 42 709 $37,813 $66,100
Bagley 43 443 $37,969 $76,100
Almond 44 429 $34,583 $84,200
Gays Mills 45 557 $37,679 $90,000
Hancock 46 386 $35,000 $70,900
Tigerton 47 667 $33,542 $80,300
Withee 48 455 $38,750 $73,600
Prentice 49 634 $32,188 $79,800
Butternut 50 378 $31,667 $80,500
Coloma 51 426 $40,000 $88,000
Ogdensburg 52 188 $41,750 $88,300
Boaz 53 164 $45,000 $96,300
Pound 54 441 $36,875 $84,200
Webster 55 602 $31,398 $91,000
Wauzeka 56 729 $50,063 $73,800
Lyndon Station 57 633 $44,474 $105,600
Avoca 58 621 $31,786 $59,800
Camp Douglas 59 571 $37,188 $86,500
Chaseburg 60 268 $40,865 $105,100
Downing 61 344 $35,625 $106,300
Junction City 62 470 $39,000 $84,600
Catawba 63 88 $36,250 $74,500
Kendall 64 448 $30,625 $78,200
Mount Sterling 65 275 $50,208 $80,400
Union Center 66 218 $47,639 $97,900
Almena 67 663 $35,673 $86,400
Neshkoro 68 504 $35,114 $102,500
Milladore 69 248 $51,875 $87,700
Kingston 70 281 $40,833 $96,900
Viola 71 617 $37,857 $74,800
Granton 72 445 $40,833 $79,100
Reeseville 73 789 $37,917 $99,600
Bowler 74 321 $38,750 $92,500
Lone Rock 75 899 $36,613 $95,200
La Farge 76 768 $41,094 $84,500
Gilman 77 527 $24,583 $78,800
Mount Hope 78 166 $34,375 $80,000
Merrillan 79 636 $31,979 $101,400
Blue River 80 459 $40,682 $83,300
Rosholt 81 466 $37,361 $100,000
Hustler 82 228 $56,250 $94,500
Oakdale 83 237 $53,056 $119,400
Cazenovia 84 327 $38,375 $103,000
Woodman 85 121 $34,286 $88,500
Patch Grove 86 198 $42,500 $81,100
New Auburn 87 546 $44,938 $100,800
Friendship 88 758 $45,313 $104,600
Eastman 89 470 $43,816 $109,000
Oxford 90 588 $49,063 $94,000
Ettrick 91 499 $35,804 $99,700
Bear Creek 92 387 $41,667 $96,500
Clear Lake 93 986 $37,202 $112,300
Couderay 94 112 $61,875 $76,000
Prairie Farm 95 452 $39,583 $101,200
Bay City 96 508 $41,932 $111,700
Ironton 97 327 $55,313 $101,200
Plainfield 98 971 $42,865 $83,800
Elmwood 99 909 $45,694 $93,800
Cecil 100 780 $50,156 $108,100

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19 thoughts on “10 Small Towns In Wisconsin Where You’d Never Want To Live

  1. What a bunch of idiots! Steuben has THE best prime rib you will ever have! And when a neighbor needs help, we all help out! As for crime? What a joke….we don’t HAVE any crime. Assholes!!

  2. I guess that if having a great meal at an affordable price, served by people who actually are interested in who you are and where your from, is a measure for a “small town where you’d never want to live” then I guess these towns are just that. These small communities in Wisconsin are great places to live if you like talking with your neighbors and having people wave at you when you travel thru town. These people are mostly kind, gentle, loving people who would watch each other’s kids in their yard or take a disabled person to the store EVERY week because they couldn’t go themselves. I miss living in my small home town, the one that’s 10th on your list, and would love to move back when I can. So go ahead and make your assumptions of our small little towns based on your statistics like Steuben being the 7th highest crime rate for small towns. It’s a village so it doesn’t qualify as a “town” in the first place, second there hasn’t been a serious crime there that I can remember (I lived ther from 1971 to 2013). If you want to live your life in a peaceful place check them out, if you like the big city then stay away. We like it just the way it is!

    1. Well said. The author has built a “straw man” argument, but likely wouldn’t be able to identify a real one.

  3. Wow! Been in a number of these towns and here my life. This site, who did this data, is so full of BS! From the crime rates, per capita not being correct and the unemployment rates?? Farming is a job!! Not employer paid, but ALL Farming areas. How misleading of our towns!!!

  4. Montello should be added, horrible Schools, and other reasons I do not feel comfortable posting just because I have to live here, For Now…

  5. I can not believe that Sheldon is on that list! They have the best burgers in the world and don’t forget the North Star! The families are farm families and great folks. The county fair and the park are top notch.

  6. 1st off , dangerous and ashley madison as topics in the header of this website shows it is nothing but click bait bullshit, at the expense of a few small towns who actually take care of their own. Sharing these websites only defers tourism and commerce that real positive websites info provides. Whoever is the author(cant be searched) go back to your hole and take your online degree and crappy ass stats and take some real college classes with a real professor in journalism. Pathetic.

  7. These small towns may have issues time to time but the majority of the time they are very safe and almost everyone knows each other. Most of the major cities under report many crimes and people do not seem to have the time or care to get to know this neighbor. I must admit I have not lived in Wisconsin for almost 17 years and do not care much for the winters.

  8. There’s nothing like the charm of a small town, probably including most of the towns on this list. The town I’m connected with, Almond, used to be so much more than it is now. For Almond I think it was a gathering place for farmers to come to town on Friday to go to market, drink at the tavern, do your banking, pick up your mail, etc. But big corporate farms came in, most of the farmers are now in area cemeteries, and the whole village has changed character. Stevens Point is up the road, but I was there last October and I’d have to say that’s not even the town it once was! Just my take, though. The residents love these places, I’m sure.

  9. I lived in Hatley WI for 44 years never locked my house left my keys in the car not one time in 44 years did my car or anything from my house go missing. I moved to Cleveland Ohio my first year here my truck was stolen and my windows were broken out of my van. Last weekend 5 kids were shot playing out side . I can’t wait to get back to my home town and live in peace and quiet. I Love small town living

  10. I grew up in Medford , which had a population of 2,799 back then. I had no fear of crime and feel that I got a decent 12 years of education. People knew each other and were friendly. I didn’t really know anyone who didn’t have a job. The evaluation of “small towns in Wisconsin” doesn’t include My home town due to the higher population. However, I think Wisconsin, in general, was a great place to grow up. I never lacked anything and feel about Medford as I would think that those people in the “small towns” also feel. Home is where the heart is, whether it be in a small town in Wisconsin or a crime laden city like Chicago. Personally, I’ll take the small, friendly town.

  11. i felt myself shrinking painfully a bit under the satistics and references to people based on money earned and education. you are talking about me. i understand that is used in statistics, but as i have had mensa people in my family ,and have lived among university types for years, i must say i find them no better at all , in any way, including kindness , faith , happiness ,and generosity, than the less educated and less wealthy. this is not just reverse snobbishness. i live in one of the ‘larger small towns’,certainly not on this list, and to me it is not so small. i have actually had things stolen, have had people try to break into my home while i was at home, and there is meth and other drugs here ,and just houses down from me there are plenty of users. a workman at my home, newly arrived from one of the bigger cities in the state, was surprised to see a cocaine deal made on the table of a bar/restaurant downtown at noon. I do not know what the crimes are that are used here in the statistics. it might have been helpful to break them down. as for ‘things to do’, are we spoiled children? people who live in big cities with so many things to do, often head out to remote areas for thier vacations. there is always something to do no matter where you are. and yes, farming is a job!

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