The 10 Worst Places To Live In North Carolina For 2021

We used data and science to determine which Tar Heel State cities are the real pits.

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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 131 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:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In North Carolina For 2021

  1. Wadesboro
  2. Lexington
  3. Monroe
  4. Reidsville
  5. Roxboro
  6. Selma
  7. Henderson
  8. Albemarle
  9. Dunn
  10. Laurinburg

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. And the worst place to live in North Carolina? That would be Wadesboro.

Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2021.

If you’re looking for something more national, check out the worst cities in America or the worst states in America.

For more North Carolina reading, check out:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In North Carolina For 2021

Wadesboro, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,305
Rank Last Year: 2 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $81,100
Unemployment Rate: 15.3%
More on Wadesboro:  Data | Photos

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 1 on the list of the state’s worst hometowns.

The economic struggles are obvious in the statistics. Wadesboro suffers a 15.3% unemployment rate and a 32.3% poverty rate. The median income sits at $26,680. 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 5,305 residents. The town boasts a quaint downtown and numerous historical points of interest.

Lexington, NC

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 18,861
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 3)
Median Home Value: $104,200
Unemployment Rate: 11.0%
More on Lexington:  Data | Photos

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 2 least attractive spot to live in North Carolina.

A lack of opportunities holds the town back. It suffers an unemployment rate of 11.0% and the median income only totals $29,938. The area also has problems with high crime and substandard schools.

Don’t cry for the 18,861 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, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 35,105
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 7)
Median Home Value: $164,000
Unemployment Rate: 8.6%
More on Monroe:  Data | Photos

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 35,105 residents face a 8.6% unemployment rate and a median income of $51,754. Meanwhile, the median home price sits at $164,000.

Still, there are lots of benefits to life in Monroe. There are plenty of amenities (including a vineyard). The town also features a picturesque county courthouse, complete with a quaint clock tower.

Reidsville, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 13,915
Rank Last Year: 4 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $103,500
Unemployment Rate: 9.5%
More on Reidsville:  Data | Photos

A mid-sized town of 13,915 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 4 least inviting location in North Carolina.

The economic dislocation has led to an unemployment rate of 9.5% and a median income of $32,339. It has also undermined other civic services. The crime rate sits about 190% off the national norm and the educational system is below average.

Still, there are pleasant aspects to life in the area. Locals have sponsored a revitalization effort for the cute downtown area. Also, nearby Lake Reidsville provides access to fun water activities.

Roxboro, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 8,298
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 4)
Median Home Value: $83,500
Unemployment Rate: 12.1%
More on Roxboro:  Data | Photos

Roxboro faces significant economic hardships. Thanks to a daunting poverty rate, high crime, and issues surrounding housing and education, the community sits at number 5 on the list of North Carolina’s worst hometowns.

The unemployment rate stands at 12.1%, while median incomes only reach $31,427. As a result, fully 34.4% 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.

Selma, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 6,746
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 3)
Median Home Value: $105,200
Unemployment Rate: 7.2%
More on Selma:  Data | Photos

This is not the Selma of historic Civil Rights consequence. This is a different Selma (the more famous one is in Alabama). This one is located in east-central North Carolina and ranks among the least appealing spots in the state.

Poverty represents the biggest problem in the area. A full 35.3% of the 6,746 residents struggle below the poverty line. The unemployment rate sits at 7.2% and the median income comes in at $27,676. Crime in the area is also an issue, with 50% more violations per capita than the national average.

Despite these problems, Selma has its small-town charms. This includes the Mitchener Station, a historic train station originally built in 1855.

Henderson, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 14,948
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $100,100
Unemployment Rate: 9.5%
More on Henderson:  Data | Photos

Henderson sits along I-85, about 40 minutes northeast of Durham. A lack of jobs and high crime rates make this one of the least appealing locations in all of North Carolina.

The 14,948 residents of Henderson suffer with a 9.5% unemployment rate and a median income of just $31,408. These economic hardships contribute to a high crime rate, which runs 190% above the national average. Schools and housing are also problems in the area.

There are pleasant aspects to life in Henderson. A short ride north takes you to the Roanoke River on the Virginia border, a great spot for outdoor fun.

Albemarle, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 15,980
Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $119,000
Unemployment Rate: 7.8%
More on Albemarle:  Data | Photos

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 – $119,000.

Dunn, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 9,664
Rank Last Year: 7 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $131,400
Unemployment Rate: 8.0%
More on Dunn:  Data | Photos

Located along I-95, about a half hour northeast of Fayetteville, Dunn provides a home to 9,664 residents. Unfortunately, these folks might be better somewhere else…almost anywhere else, really. That’s because Dunn represents the number 9 worst place in North Carolina to put down roots.

What makes the area so unappealing? Well, Dunn has economic problems, including a 8.0% unemployment rate and a 29.1% poverty rate. It also has high crime and a spotty educational system.

There are spots of joy in town. Dunn provides typical small-town charm, access to a couple of nearby Civil War battlefields, and several educational facilities, including the William C. Lee Museum.

Laurinburg, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 15,119
Rank Last Year: 39 (Up 29)
Median Home Value: $103,200
Unemployment Rate: 14.6%
More on Laurinburg:  Data | Photos

Now a lot of people in North Carolina haven’t heard of little Laurinburg, located near the South Carolina border in Scotland County. The LBG. The Burg.

A whopping one third of this community of 16,000 people lives at or below the poverty line, and it’s super cheap to live here, too. Meaning it’s a very poor place with little opportunity – it’s really just churches and fast food outlets. That’s just one reason that this small city loses 100 people every year. 15% of the population here is out of work, and most of them, chronically.

It’s also the 5th most violent place in the state, and it has the 28th highest burglary rate in the state, too. Like every single day here, there’s a burglary. For such a tiny community, that’s just so sad.

The school taxes are high, but they’re still closing schools down here. The County can’t afford to build new ones. Or so they say. A home is $30,862, which is bottom of the barrel for this state. Again, small town rural North Carolina folks. You get what you pay for.

But hey Laurinburg, at least you dont have some weird legs sculpture like they do in Henderson. Which is also a bad place to live in this state.

How we determined the worst places to live in North Carolina for 2021

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

The data comes from the Census’s most recent American Community Survey and from the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

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 5,000 people were considered — leaving 131 cities.

We then ranked each city from 1 to 131 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. You can download the data here.

This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased.

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 2021.

If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in North Carolina:

  1. Cary (Pop. 166,268)
  2. Chapel Hill (Pop. 60,998)
  3. Elon (Pop. 11,516)

For more North Carolina reading, check out:

Where Are The Worst Places To Live In North Carolina?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Wadesboro 5,305 15.3% $81,100
2 Lexington 18,861 11.0% $104,200
3 Monroe 35,105 8.6% $164,000
4 Reidsville 13,915 9.5% $103,500
5 Roxboro 8,298 12.1% $83,500
6 Selma 6,746 7.2% $105,200
7 Henderson 14,948 9.5% $100,100
8 Albemarle 15,980 7.8% $119,000
9 Dunn 9,664 8.0% $131,400
10 Laurinburg 15,119 14.6% $103,200
11 Williamston 5,312 18.6% $96,000
12 Eden 15,055 7.5% $87,500
13 Smithfield 12,400 5.6% $142,200
14 Lenoir 17,879 7.5% $111,300
15 Butner 7,727 8.5% $136,700
16 Marion 7,834 6.9% $89,200
17 Zebulon 5,404 5.1% $130,100
18 Lumberton 20,928 7.8% $109,800
19 Hamlet 6,331 8.6% $90,600
20 Morganton 16,481 5.2% $160,100
21 Graham 14,925 4.9% $133,800
22 Goldsboro 34,647 12.5% $127,300
23 Salisbury 33,727 9.6% $129,100
24 Thomasville 26,784 6.3% $116,800
25 Woodfin 6,612 3.9% $224,400
26 Sawmills 5,165 5.1% $108,300
27 Kings Mountain 11,028 12.2% $123,600
28 Sanford 29,456 6.3% $142,200
29 Angier 5,893 3.5% $157,800
30 Burlington 53,063 6.6% $134,100
31 Tarboro 10,915 9.2% $112,100
32 Roanoke Rapids 14,741 6.5% $112,400
33 Rockingham 8,865 9.6% $97,100
34 Spring Lake 12,119 11.8% $94,300
35 Oxford 8,721 9.4% $137,100
36 Asheboro 25,852 6.1% $120,900
37 Mount Airy 10,193 6.3% $153,700
38 Kinston 20,398 15.4% $101,800
39 Whiteville 5,386 4.0% $105,300
40 Lincolnton 10,832 8.0% $153,800
41 Washington 9,590 10.0% $139,500
42 Unionville 6,959 3.6% $214,000
43 Waynesville 9,965 4.0% $161,800
44 Shelby 20,007 9.2% $119,300
45 Clinton 8,504 6.9% $122,700
46 Erwin 5,035 3.9% $91,000
47 Newton 13,059 4.9% $110,200
48 Charlotte 857,425 5.0% $220,300
49 Ayden 5,132 13.1% $117,400
50 New Bern 29,895 8.1% $155,900
51 Wilson 49,272 8.6% $142,700
52 Rocky Mount 54,548 7.3% $113,100
53 Hillsborough 7,115 5.5% $261,200
54 Stokesdale 5,396 4.3% $205,400
55 Fayetteville 210,432 9.1% $131,000
56 Aberdeen 7,595 6.8% $202,100
57 Archdale 11,510 5.0% $138,000
58 Hickory 40,634 8.5% $168,600
59 Pineville 8,749 3.0% $219,800
60 Gastonia 75,887 7.2% $155,200
61 High Point 111,714 6.9% $151,900
62 Southern Pines 14,022 6.7% $289,700
63 Hope Mills 15,769 6.9% $134,900
64 Kannapolis 48,630 6.2% $144,400
65 Wesley Chapel 8,974 3.1% $348,700
66 Cherryville 5,956 4.4% $125,600
67 Trinity 6,579 4.3% $142,400
68 Statesville 26,685 6.7% $151,800
69 Winston-Salem 244,115 6.0% $147,900
70 Durham 269,702 4.6% $224,100
71 Indian Trail 38,822 3.7% $216,100
72 Greensboro 291,303 6.1% $156,300
73 Mount Holly 15,610 4.6% $172,300
74 Boiling Spring Lakes 6,021 5.4% $162,200
75 Conover 8,452 4.1% $146,600
76 Kernersville 24,576 5.3% $181,300
77 Mocksville 5,213 3.2% $140,400
78 Nashville 5,516 12.1% $136,900
79 Belmont 12,054 4.5% $210,600
80 Weddington 10,794 1.9% $457,900
81 Marvin 6,553 2.4% $677,800
82 Rolesville 7,488 7.9% $316,200
83 Clayton 21,681 3.4% $192,900
84 Kill Devil Hills 7,155 4.9% $245,900
85 Cornelius 29,256 3.9% $322,400
86 Leland 20,294 4.9% $243,200
87 Carrboro 21,230 4.5% $368,800
88 Asheville 91,560 2.8% $270,400
89 Greenville 91,921 8.9% $161,200
90 Summerfield 11,151 3.1% $361,100
91 Brevard 7,824 7.2% $232,500
92 Mebane 14,952 5.7% $189,600
93 Mills River 7,251 1.7% $257,800
94 King 6,961 4.0% $158,000
95 Concord 91,980 5.3% $206,600
96 Oak Ridge 6,901 2.3% $383,300
97 Lewisville 13,861 4.1% $195,400
98 Wilmington 120,194 5.7% $246,400
99 Garner 29,462 4.5% $190,000
100 Hendersonville 13,908 1.8% $188,100

How Is The Area In ?

Editor’s Note: This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out we updated this article for 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the worst places to live in North Carolina.

About Nick Johnson

Nick Johnson earned his masters in Business Administration from the Drucker School At Claremont Graduate University. He has written for 39 publications across the country and ran the media relations department at Movoto, a real estate portal based in San Francisco. He has been featured in over 500 publications as an expert in real estate and as an authority on real estate trends.

Nick's the creator of the HomeSnacks YouTube channel that now has over 260,000 subscribers and is an excellent source to learn about different parts of the country.