Not everyone is cut out for city life. Some people would prefer to live in the cities and towns that surround Tacoma.
So the question arises, do the suburbs maintain a semblance of the larger-than-life appeal of their more famous neighbor?
Today, we’ll use science and data to determine which Tacoma ‘burbs need a little tender loving care – the sore thumbs of the Tacoma area if you will. Realistically, you can’t expect all the suburbs to live up to Tacoma proper, although Mercer Island certainly tries.
Of course, not all suburbs of Tacoma are created equally, which is precisely why we set out to find the best ones. So without further ado…
We examined the 38 biggest suburbs of Tacoma to find out the worst places to live. And while you won’t necessarily find them on the worst places to live in Washington lists, these ten places are a little too far downwind of Tacoma in terms of quality of life.
Here are the 10 worst suburbs around Tacoma for 2018:
- Tukwila (Photos)
- Bremerton (Photos)
- Lakewood (Photos)
- Fife (Photos)
- Pacific (Photos)
- Seatac (Photos)
- Auburn (Photos)
- Port Orchard (Photos)
- Olympia (Photos)
Read on to see how we determined the places around Tacoma that need a pick-me-up. And remember, don’t blame the messenger.
And remember, there are some good places to live around Tacoma too.
Editor’s Note: If you see a slight difference between the worst in state rankings and this suburb ranking, it’s because of the methodology. We needed a way to include more places, so we eliminated crime and commute times as criteria for this analysis.
For more Washington reading, check out:
- 10 Best Places To Live In Washington
- 10 Cheapest Places To Live In Washington
- 10 Most Dangerous Cities In Washington
Determining The Worst Suburbs Around Tacoma 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 threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using the most recent American Community Survey data, this is the criteria we used:
- High unemployment rate
- Low median household incomes
- Low population density (no things to do)
- Low home values
- A lot of high school drop outs
- High poverty
- High rate of uninsured families
FYI: We defined a suburb as being within 30 miles of Tacoma.
Additionally, we limited the analysis to places that have over 6,000 people. This left us with a grand total of 38 suburbs to evaluate around Tacoma.
We ranked each place with scores from 1 to 38 in each category, where 1 was the “worst”.
Next, we averaged the rankings for each place to create a quality of life index.
And finally, we crowned the city with the worst quality of life index the “Worst Suburb near Tacoma.” We’re lookin’ at you, Tukwila.
Read on below to learn more about what it’s like to live in the worst of the worst. Or skip to the end to see the list of all the suburbs ranked from worst to best.
We’ll get the ball rolling with Tukwila, the absolute worst place to live around Tacoma according to the data.
And in the world of worst rankings, Tukwila beat the competition pretty handily thanks to scoring in the bottom 15% in three major categories. Income is the 4th worst in the Tacoma area, and to make matters worse, the city ranks 15th worst when it comes to home values.
But hey, at least it’s cheap to live there. But there’s a reason for that… it’s Tukwila.
You won’t feel bad about not having a great income for the area, there aren’t a bunch of places to spend your money anyway.
Welcome to Bremerton. Home to KMart, Big Lots, and a lot of gas stations.
This city is 23.2 miles to Tacoma. Income levels here are the 2nd lowest in the metro area, where families bring in about $47,358 a year, which doesn’t go a long ways even on a shoestring budget.
But on the bright side, there are a lot of fast food joints in the area.
Back up the highway we go for the third worst Tacoma suburb you can live in. You might have expected to see Lakewood on here. While the cost of living is low, your entertainment and work options are limited. And that’s an understatement.
In terms of numbers, it’s in the worst 15% for insurance, and the adult high school drop out rate is poor compared to other Tacoma suburbs.
But at least there are nice parks to bring the kids during the day.
If you live in Yelm, most likely you struggle to make ends meet every month. It ranks as the 5th lowest Tacoma suburb when it comes to residents making money.
Not only that, but this is the 1st worst unemployed suburb you can live in if you choose to live near Tacoma. Remember, we looked at 38 cities for this study.
Yelm is about 23.0 miles to downtown.
Fife has the distinction of being a Tacoma suburb. Which means that’s about all it has going for it.
All snarkiness aside, Fife has the 8th lowest home values in the metro Tacoma area, where the median price is $229,100. To put that into perspective, in Mercer Island, the median income is $129,348, which is the best in the area.
Fife has an unemployment rate of 7.5% which ranks 11th worst.
Pacific has 7,042 residents that probably know it’s a pretty crummy place to live when you look at the data. (Or, if you’ve ever been there, you don’t need to look at the data.)
Incomes are towards the bottom and the poverty rate sits at 11.8%.
Ah, SeaTac. You rank as the 7th worst place to live around Tacoma.
It’s the place with the 22nd most out of work residents in the Tacoma metro area (6.4%).
Auburn is a city about 12.2 miles from Tacoma, but Tacoma probably wishes it was further away. It ranks as the 8th worst burb for 2018.
You’d be hard pressed to find a worse place to live. Auburn has the 10th most uninsured people, 15th worst incomes, and has the 14th highest unemployment rate (7.4%) in the entire Tacoma metro area.
Homes only cost $241,800 for a reason. That’s cheap for Tacoma standards.
9. Port Orchard
If you absolutely have to live near Tacoma, then Port Orchard might be a place for you to consider as it’s only the 9th worst Tacoma suburb.
About 10.1% of residents are out of work.
Rounding out the ten worst Tacoma suburbs to call home is Olympia.
Located 25.2 miles outside the city, Olympias is a real pit when you look at the data. Its residents have the 8th highest unemployment rate (8.6%), and poverty is far above the area average.
The areas around Tacoma where the dream is more of a nightmare for 2018
Well there you have it — the worst of the ‘burbs surrounding Tacoma with Tukwila casting itself ahead of the pack.
As we mentioned earlier, the suburbs around Tacoma aren’t all bad. Mercer Island takes the cake as the best place to live around Tacoma.
For more Washington reading, check out:
- 10 Most Ghetto Cities In Washington
- These Are The 10 Richest Cities In Washington
- 10 Safest Places In Washington
- 10 Worst Places To Live In Washington
Detailed List Of The Worst Tacoma Suburbs