If you’re from North Carolina, you know how great you have it there. It’s not quite the deep south, a little bit of east coast, and a lot of awesome. If you just moved here, join the party! You now realize that the Tar Heel State is one of America’s finest states.
You have the mountains, the ocean, and some of the best college basketball teams in the nation. What else could you want? Oh yeah, great barbecue. South Carolina can’t hold a candle to it.
But is it all cheery in North Carolina? Of course not. Just like every other state, North Carolina has its issues. There are some places that are having a hard time right now. The purpose of this post is to use science and data to determine which North Carolina cities need a little tender loving care.
After analyzing 129 of the Tar Heel State’s most populous cities, we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in the state:
- Wadesboro (Photos)
- Selma (Photos)
- Henderson (Photos)
- Lumberton (Photos)
- Lexington (Photos)
- Eden (Photos)
- Laurinburg (Photos)
- Dunn (Photos)
- Long View (Photos)
- Marion (Photos)
What? Where are these places you wonder? And before you get all riled up and say we’re picking on small town America, that’s not the case. We understand there’s a lot of good in every place.
However, according to data (which doesn’t measure things like beauty and ‘friendly people’), there are far better options in the state for making a place home. Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2018.
For more North Carolina reading, check out:
- 10 Best Cities in North Carolina
- These Are The 10 Richest Cities In North Carolina
- 10 Cheapest Places To Live In North Carolina
How we determined the worst places to live in North Carolina 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 don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that people like the following things:
- Good education
- Lots of jobs
- Low crime
- Low poverty
- Nice homes
- High incomes
- High population density (Lots of things to do)
- Short work commutes
- Health insurance
We broke crime down into violent crime and property crime to give violent crime a larger weight — if you did a simple calculation of all crimes per capita, property crimes are normally 7x more common and really bias that ranking.
Furthermore, only cities with at least 5,100 people were considered — leaving 129 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 129 for all the criteria with a #1 ranking being the worst for the particular criteria.
Next, we averaged the rankings into one “Worst Place To Live Score”.
Finally, we ranked every city on the “Worst Place To Live Score” with the lowest score being the worst city in North Carolina — Wadesboro. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in North Carolina.
This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased.
Population: 5,577Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Home Values: $98,800 (15th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 21.2% (2nd worst)
More on Wadesboro: Data | Photos
Unfortunately for the Town of Wadesboro, crime has been an issue for a while now. They need some tough love down there; residents had a 1 in 89 chance of being the victim of a violent crime, meaning raped, attacked or murdered. In fact, for a city of under 6,000 people, the 62 violent crimes in town in 2015 really puts things into perspective.
Residents here are really having a hard time making ends meet, too.
Population: 6,325Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Home Values: $85,400 (2nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 12.1% (30th worst)
More on Selma: Data | Photos
Selma, NC needs a big hug right now. Residents here are underpaid, underemployed and possibly lonely.
Additionally, crime is 32nd worst in the state, which is very high considering Selma is so far removed from the rest of North Carolina.
If you know anyone in Selma, dm them on Facebook and tell them you love them. They can probably use it right about now.
Population: 15,258Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 9)
Home Values: $95,000 (10th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 16.8% (7th worst)
More on Henderson: Data | Photos
While the median household income in Henderson is higher than other towns on this list, causing it to be lower down on the list of “worst cities”, Henderson still has the 7th worst unemployment rate in the state, as well as the 16th worst crime index.
Therefore, though the average Henderson household brings in a higher income, there are fewer people working here than in other cities across the state. It doesn’t help that everyone has to be constantly worried about crime, either.
Population: 21,646Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 1)
Home Values: $98,500 (14th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.0% (44th worst)
More on Lumberton: Data | Photos
When you’re looking at the worst places you could live in North Carolina, Lumberton ranks 4th worst. Let’s see why.
Here in Lumberton, crime is the 4th highest in the state, and 1 out of 7.2 residents was robbed here according to the latest FBI numbers.
That’s not the first place you think of making home, is it?
Additionally, you have a 1 in 55 chance of being the victim of a violent crime, which includes rapes, attacks or murders. That’s really high.
When you look at adult education in North Carolina, the folks in Lumberton have the 13th highest drop out rate. And other factors that make Lumberton undesirable are the low median incomes and home prices.
The unemployment rate is the 44th highest in North Carolina, at 10.0%. That’s actually on par with the national average, which means North Carolina has some hard workers.
Population: 19,089Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 4)
Home Values: $101,800 (17th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 18.2% (4th worst)
More on Lexington: Data | Photos
You might have passed through Lexington once and probably throught it seems to be a relatively quiet, clean place.
Here’s what science says about why Lexington needs some love: The unemployment rate is nearly 18.2%, residents earn about $27,437 a year, and home prices are just over $101,800. Across the board, those are in the bottom half in the state. Not absolutely horrible, but not desirable, either.
And there simply isn’t anything to do in Lexington.
Population: 15,434Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 3)
Home Values: $82,300 (1st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 13.8% (19th worst)
More on Eden: Data | Photos
The good news for Eden: The crime and education aren’t horrible. But they certainly aren’t great either.
Eden has one of the worst economic situations in the state. Residents earn a fraction of what it takes to really make a good living, and the home prices have barely climbed to $82,300.
Hopefully things are looking up in Eden. The city has spent a small fortune reinvesting in the downtown business district, a revitalization process that they hope can make an impact on the community. A real fixer-upper.
Population: 15,601Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 1)
Home Values: $98,200 (12th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 14.0% (16th worst)
More on Laurinburg: Data | Photos
Laurinburg places 7th in our ranking of the worst places to live in North Carolina.
You can imagine it’s a pretty simple life down there. Which is fine, unless you look closely at the data.
Homes are the 12th cheapest in the state, and at $98,200, just about anyone with a pulse can buy a home here. However, the unemployment rate (14.0%) is the 16th highest in North Carolina, and income levels are far below the state average. And 3660.0% of the population lives below the poverty line.
Would you have guessed that the area around Laurinburg has one of the highest crime rates, per capita in North Carolina?
Population: 9,762Rank Last Year: 15 (Up 7)
Home Values: $112,600 (26th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 14.5% (13th worst)
More on Dunn: Data | Photos
It’s not the adults in Dunn who need a hug, it’s the kids. The public schools are some of the least funded in the state. In addition, the crime is really high for a city of its size.
Their motto is, “Where community matters.” So at least they have one another.
Dunn is kind of out in the middle of nowhere north of Fayetteville.
9. Long View
Population: 5,071Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 1)
Home Values: $86,700 (3rd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 14.1% (15th worst)
More on Long View: Data
If you live in Long View, this might not be a surprise, but you have the 34th highest crime rate, per capita in the state of North Carolina. Every year you spend here, you have a 1 in 20.9 chance of being the victim of a property crime like a car break in or home invasion robbery.
That’s a lot of stolen cell phones, laptops and black license plates.
Plus there were 47 violent crimes in the last FBI reporting year. That means if you spent a year there, you’d have a 1 in 107 chance of being raped or attacked.
Finally, the folks who live here earn the 12th lowest salaries in North Carolina At $29,932 a household, that’s simply not enough to get by for most folks.
Population: 7,873Rank Last Year: 18 (Up 8)
Home Values: $89,600 (4th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 12.9% (26th worst)
More on Marion: Data | Photos
Marion needs some tough love as it ranks as the 10th worst city to live in North Carolina for 2015.
Crime in Marion is the 7th highest in the state, where 1 in 12.9 people have a chance of being the victim of a property crime, according to the latest FBI numbers.
. Additionally, the income is almost dead last in North Carolina.
If commute time is important, Marion residents have the 69th longest commute of any residents on our list.
Wrapping Up The Worst In North Carolina
If you’re looking at areas in North Carolina with the worst economic situations, where there’s higher than average crime, and not a lot to do, this is an accurate list.
And in the end, Wadesboro ranks as the worst city to live in North Carolina for 2018.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in North Carolina:
- Cary (Pop. 155,822)
- Davidson (Pop. 12,076)
- Apex (Pop. 43,893)
For more North Carolina reading , check out:
- 10 Most Dangerous Cities In North Carolina
- 10 Safest Cities in North Carolina
- 10 Cheapest Places To Live In North Carolina
Detailed List Of The Worst Cities In North Carolina
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