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The 10 Worst Places to Live in Tennessee

Dunlap

Tennessee is a landlocked state in the southeast portion of the country and home to one of the most-visited national parks in the United States- the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Tennessee is known for its country music heritage, integral role in the Civil War, and incredible panoramic views of the Appalachian Mountains.

The area of Tennessee exceeds 42,000 square miles and is divided into three general regions –

  • The Blue Ridge Mountains line the state’s eastern border – registering some of North America’s highest elevations.
  • Tennessee’s central portions offer caverns of bedrock and rolling hills.
  • The western parts of the state offer fertile plains.

Tennessee is famous for its whiskey, with the famous Lynchburg-based Jack Daniel's Distillery among the best-known global brands. Tennessee is often distinguished as the Home of Country Music and the Birthplace of the Blues. Even Tennessee’s famous music cities have nicknames – Memphis is known as Blues City, while Nashville is often called Music City USA – with a remarkable number of recording studios, music publishers, live music clubs, and record labels.

Much of the state’s recent appeal and draw can be attributed to Tennessee’s affording housing costs, low overall cost of living, appealing tax structures, generally mild weather, and affordable housing options. Real estate prices in Tennessee are generally low by national standards – in 2023, the statewide median home value was $293,464, 28 percent less than the median of $408,537 for Americans during the same time.

These hard-to-deny- benefits of living in Tennessee have helped the state experience tremendous population expansion and a change in recent years, but this has also led to an increase in crime and our curated list of the 12 worst places to live in Tennessee.

Our Methodology

The methodology we used for determining the worst places to live in Tennessee starts by identifying and assessing objective data and independent metrics that can be accessed through government agencies and organizations dedicated to providing info that helps locate neighborhoods in need of improvement. Current population data for our analysis based on the worst cities to live in Tennessee was obtained from Neighborhood Scout’s most recent data.

Next, our analysis added violent and property crime per capita statistics for each Tennessee location that had more than 5,000 residents. The source of these metrics was the FBI's Crime Data Explorer, a comprehensive database created by the National Incident-Based Reporting System as a means to know where to manage high crime areas.

Their latest data includes 2022 statistics for the entire state of Tennessee -

  • There were 32,896 - Violent crimes – defined as rape, robbery, aggravated assault, homicide, etc.
  • There were 164,895  property crime incidents reported in Tennessee.

Our ranking and analysis primarily applied crime rates from Neighborhood Scout’s Violent Crime list and Area Vibes; however, factors and other relevant living features were used to help guide the concluding analysis These include –

  • The Cost of Living for the area.
  • Current Population Data.
  • Employment Opportunities.
  • Median Home Values.
  • Rental Prices.
  • Poverty Levels, and more. Note that poverty rates noted in the analysis were obtained from Data USA, Census.gov, and World Population Review, with Tennessee's 2023 state poverty rate standing at 17.6 percent.

The 12 Worst Places to Live in Tennessee

When choosing a place to live, most people seek to avoid the worst places in the area proactively based on factors such as crime rates, poverty rates, unemployment levels, and a lack of desirable amenities in the area. Based on these factors, here are some of the worst places to live in Tennessee.

12. Rockwood, Tennessee

  • Population (2023) – 5,538
  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 7.40
  • Poverty Rate – 20.99 percent.

Rockwood, which was once a coal and iron ore mining town with strong connections to the railroad industry, has seen some rough times. This small city in Roane County has serious violent crime rates that exceed state and national averages, while the property crime rates in Rockwood are twice the Tennessee average at 46.41/1,000 people. Rockwood’s crime per square mile registers at 37, which is a shocking 2.5 times Tennessee’s state average.

11. Millington, Tennessee

  • Population (2023) – 10,442
  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 7.47
  • Poverty Rate – 18.14 percent.

Millington is a medium-sized city in Tennessee’s southwestern parts, about 18 miles to the north of Memphis’ downtown. The primary influence in this economically depressed town is the nearby naval base and the businesses that support the base’s personnel. Violent crime in Millington is nearly twice the national average, and the property crime rate for Millington is more than 41 incidents per thousand people (which translates to a chance of becoming a victim of property crime at 1 in 24 – far worse than the state’s property crime stats. In fact, Neighborhood Scout recognizes that 98 percent of American neighborhoods are safer than Millington.

10. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

  • Population (2023) – 184,086
  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 8.37
  • Poverty Rate – 21.4 percent.

Pigeon Forge is located near the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and about one-half hour to the south of Knoxville. Pigeon Forge is home to numerous attractions, including Dollywood, The Titanic Museum, Wonder Works, and the Hollywood Wax Museum, so Pigeon Forge is and will remain a huge destination – especially for family vacations.

However, crime has become rough, and the website Neighborhood Scout notes that 97 percent of American neighborhoods are safer than Pigeon Forge. Violent crime in Pigeon Forge is more than thirty percent higher than Tennessee’s overall violent crime rate. Property crime, as well as poverty statistics, significantly surpass state and national averages. Residents and visitors have a 1 in 25 chance of being victimized by property crime.

9. Union City, Tennessee

  • Population (2023) – 10,985
  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 8.68
  • Poverty Rate – 21 percent.

Union City is a medium-sized city located near the Kentucky border in northwest Tennessee that easily ranks among the worst places to live in Tennessee. While violent crime in Union City is concerning, there were no murders but an unusual number of rapes for such a small location. Property crime rates in this city – which put residents at a 1 in 25 chance of becoming a victim, are nearly twice Tennessee’s state property crime rate averages. Poverty is a serious problem, with rates about 23 percent above Tennessee’s state poverty rate.

8. Covington, Tennessee

  • Population (2023) – 8,597
  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 10.70
  • Poverty Rate – 23.4 percent.

Located in southwest Tennessee – about 40 miles from Memphis, Covington is a small town that has many crime issues, which is why it makes the list of the worst cities to live in Tennessee. Nearly ¼ of the city’s residents live below the poverty line, and while violent crime is not the worst in the state, the city’s murder rate is four times the national average. In addition, Covington, Tennessee, has a crime rate that exceeds that of 90 percent of the state of Tennessee’s cities and towns of all sizes

7.  Nashville, Tennessee

  • Population (2023) – 184,086
  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 10.95
  • Poverty Rate – 14.5 percent.

The capital city of Nashville ranks among the worst places to live in Tennessee – with some staggering crime statistics that should concern all current and prospective residents. Nashville is the home of the Country Music Hall of Fame as well as the city’s Grand Ole Opry. It also has a violent crime rate that is 2.5 times the national level, with 83 murders – a murder rate twice the U.S. average. The crime per square mile in Nashville is a stunning 68 incidents per 1,000 residents – more than four times the Tennessee average.

6. Chattanooga, Tennessee

  • Population (2023) – 184,086
  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 11.31
  • Poverty Rate – 17.6 percent.

The southeastern Tennessee of Chattanooga has also made the list of the worst places to live in Tennessee primarily due to its exceptionally high violent and property crime rates. The large city is situated along the Tennessee River in a valley of the Appalachian Mountains and the iconic Lookout Mountain. At 11+ incidents per 1,000 people in Chattanooga, someone has a 1 in 88 chance of being victimized by a violent crime. The city had 24 murders last year, and its murder rate is more than twice the national average. Property crime rates exceed twice the state’s average – translating to a 1 in 19 chance of becoming a property crime victim.

5. Dyersburg, Tennessee

  • Population (2023) – 15,597
  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 11.47
  • Poverty Rate – 23.69 percent.

According to Neighborhood Scout, all American cities are safer than Dyersburg. The violent crime rate is astounding, with a murder rate for a small city at four times the national average. Residents of this medium-sized Tennesee city have a 1 in 20 chance of becoming property crime victims in Dyersburg – which is why it ranks among the worst places to live in Tennessee. Poverty rates in Dyersburg are among the state’s highest, as are the city’s crime per square mile statistics at 56 incidents/1,000 residents.

4. Fayetteville, Tennessee

  • Population (2023) – 7,056
  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 12.05
  • Poverty Rate – 17.4 percent.

Located about an hour south of Nashville in Lincoln County in south/central Tennessee, Fayetteville is a small town that is known for its farmlands that is also facing significant property crime rates and violent crime rates that are twice the state of Tennessee’s average. The murder rate for Fayetteville, TN, is seven times the national level, and the number of rapes in this small town is nearly twice the American average. Residents in Fayetteville, Tennessee, have a 1 in 35 chance of being a Fayetteville property crime victim.

3. Brownsville, Tennessee

  • Population (2023) – 9,542
  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 12.58
  • Poverty Rate – 24.2 percent.

Located in southwestern Tennessee in Haywood County near the Hatchie River, Brownsville is a medium-sized city with high poverty and crime rates, which makes it less than an ideal place to place one’s permanent roots. The city’s violent crime rate is more than twice the average for all other Tennessee residents, on average. Even worse is the murder rate in Brownsville, which is about 3.5 times the national average, and rape incidents in Brownsville also exceed the average across the United States.

2. Ripley, Tennessee

  • Population (2023) – 7,672
  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 20.59
  • Poverty Rate – 25.8 percent.

According to Road Snacks, Ripley ranks among the worst places to live in Tennessee is Ripley, which likely has something to do with its shockingly high violent crime rate – which is about 3.5 times the state’s average for similar crimes. With four murders in such a small town, the murder rate in Ripley is just under nine times the national murder rate. Residents and visitors have a 1 in 49 chance of being victimized violently – nearly four times the state average. Crime per square mile in Ripley is twice the Tennessee average.

1. Memphis, Tennessee

  • Population (2023) – 621,056
  • Violent Crime Rate Per Thousand People – 24.37
  • Poverty Rate –  21.4 percent.

Memphis takes the top spot of the worst places to live in Tennessee, with Neighborhood Scout noting that pretty much every neighborhood in America is safer than Memphis. Only in Your State notes that while crime has improved, the city still has stunningly high violent and property crime rates. Violent crime exceeds the state average by 400 percent, leading to a chance of being victimized by 1 in 41. The murder rate in Memphis is more than seven times the national average. Robberies in the city are more than five times the national average. Memphis residents have a 1 in 14 chance of being a property crime victim, which is more than three times the state average. And, according to a U.S. News and World Report, Memphis was recently named the riskiest place in the United States for drivers – ranking as the place with the most fatal car accidents/per capita

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Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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