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 130 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:
Where are these places, you wonder? And before you get all riled up and say we’re picking on small towns in North Carolina, that’s not the case.
We understand there’s a lot of good in every place. For example, the best place to live in North Carolina is Davidson.
However, according to data (which doesn’t measure things like beauty and ‘friendly people’), the state has far better options for making a place home. And the worst place to live in North Carolina? The worst place to live in North Carolina is Roxboro.
Read below to see how we crunched the numbers and how your city fared in 2023.
For more North Carolina reading, check out:
- Best Places To Live In North Carolina
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The 10 Worst Places To Live In North Carolina For 2023
Roxboro faces significant economic hardships. Thanks to a daunting poverty rate, high crime, and issues surrounding housing and education, the community sits at number 1 on the list of North Carolina’s worst hometowns.
The unemployment rate stands at 9.3%, while median incomes only reach $33,883. As a result, fully 40.3% of the community scrapes by below the poverty line. Meanwhile, the crime rate comes in at more than double the national average.
Life isn’t completely dreary in Roxboro, however. Located in the north-central part of the state, it serves as a local cultural hub. You can check out its regular farmers markets, or stick around for annual events, like the Willow Oak Bluegrass Festival.
Built in the south-central part of the state, Wadesboro sits in a mostly rural section of North Carolina. It takes more than an hour to drive to Charlotte, the closest big city. As a result, Wadesboro suffers from a lack of economic opportunity – the main strike against the community as it ranks at number 3 on the list of the state’s worst hometowns.
The economic struggles are obvious in the statistics. Wadesboro suffers a 16.4% unemployment rate and a 37.1% poverty rate. The median income sits at $26,878. This financial structure leads to other deficiencies, like high crime and a troubled school system.
It’s not all gloom and doom for Wadesboro’s 5,079 residents. The town boasts a quaint downtown and numerous historical points of interest.
Lexington sits among several of North Carolina’s most prominent urban areas. An hour drive to the southwest takes you to Charlotte. Go half hour to the north and you’ll get to Winston-Salem. Despite this promising location, the town still ranks as the number 4 least attractive spot to live in North Carolina.
A lack of opportunities holds the town back. It suffers an unemployment rate of 10.6% and the median income only totals $32,698. The area also has problems with high crime and substandard schools.
Don’t cry for the 19,347 people of Lexington, though. The town also happens to bill itself as “The Barbeque Capital of the World“…and great BBQ solves a lot of problems.
Monroe could count as an outer suburb of Charlotte, located about 40 minutes from the city. However, this hasn’t saved the town from becoming one of the least attractive places in North Carolina.
The community suffers from a sluggish economy. Meanwhile, some of the big city’s problems (like crime) have seeped into Monroe. The 34,464 residents face a 6.6% unemployment rate and a median income of $58,180. Meanwhile, the median home price sits at $189,800.
A mid-sized town of 14,463 residents in the north-central part of the state, just south of the Virginia border, Reidsville once received a significant economic boost from the tobacco industry. That source of cash dried up in the 1990s, leaving significant economic turmoil. At this point, Reidsville counts as the number 6 least inviting location in North Carolina.
The economic dislocation has led to an unemployment rate of 9.3% and a median income of $34,221. It has also undermined other civic services. The crime rate sits about 190% off the national norm and the educational system is below average.
Like most of America, smallish rural communities in North Carolina struggle with drugs. Albemarle, a town about 45 minutes outside of the Charlotte metro area is located in Stanly County. And Stanly County has the highest drug overdose rate in the state. Historically, smaller, impoverished communities like Albemarle have struggled to contain drug use because of a lack of resources. I mean when they arrested the head honcho drug dealer here not too long ago, he got out on bond and was dealing the next day. This is also the 4th most dangerous place in the state.
A quarter of the community lives in poverty and the number of folks out of work here is three times higher than the national average. And crime is super bad – like a 1 in 16 chance of being attacked or robbed every year.
Crime gets an F, employment gets an F, housing gets a D and schools get a D-.
Not a place you want to live in, indeed. Average home price – $136,900.
Methodology: How we determined the worst places to live in North Carolina for 2023
To figure out the worst places to live in North Carolina, 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 more significant weight. If you did a simple calculation of all crimes per capita, property crimes are typically 7x more common and bias that ranking.
Furthermore, only cities with at least 5,000 people were considered — leaving 130 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 130 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 — Roxboro. Read on for a detailed look at the ten worst cities in North Carolina.
Summary: 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 little to do, this is an accurate list.
And in the end, Roxboro ranks as the worst city to live in North Carolina for 2023.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in North Carolina:
- Morrisville (Pop. 28,824)
- Cary (Pop. 171,603)
- Davidson (Pop. 14,644)
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Worst Places To Live In North Carolina?
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