The Palmetto State of South Carolina is truly a glorious place. You have some of the best beaches in the south. Charleston might be one of America’s finest cities. And there’s more history in South Carolina than in the rest of the south combined.
You’ve got some great colleges, lots of culture, and the large areas of farming are a vital part of our economy.
But you knew that already if you live there.
But is it all charming in South Carolina? Of course not. Just like every other state, South Carolina has its issues. There are some cities that a real hot mess right now. The purpose of this post is to use science and data to determine which South Carolina cities have some serious issues, at least on paper.
After analyzing 64 of the Palmetto State’s most populous cities, we came up with this list as the 10 worst places you could live in South Carolina:
Where are these places, you wonder? And before you get all riled up and say we’re picking on small towns in South 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 South Carolina is Tega Cay.
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 South Carolina? The worst place to live in South Carolina is York.
Read below to see how we crunched the numbers and how your city fared in 2023.
For more South Carolina reading, check out:
- Best Places To Live In South Carolina
- Cheapest Places To Live In South Carolina
- Most Dangerous Cities In South Carolina
The 10 Worst Places To Live In South Carolina For 2023
If you travel about a hour south west of Charlotte, you’ll find the fifth worst place to live in South Carolina. That’s right, little old York, in York County, home to 8,423 people.
This place may have been a nice place to settle down back in its prime, but these days, life in York is absolutely dismal. Like others on our list, York has its share of economic struggles. The unemployment rate is 7.8%, and most folks make way under $41,645 a year. And get this – 1 in 5 residents here don’t even make $10,000 a year.
York also suffers from a crime rate nearly double the national average.
Education in York is a mixed bag, The public schools report every single student here is economically disadvantaged. 1 in 5 adults never finished high school, but the middle and high school have a 16:1 student to teacher ratio – so that’s encouraging.
And, to top it off…there’s just not much to do here besides the York Recreation Complex. For shopping, if you can’t find it at Walmart or Ingles, you won’t find it at all. It’s just a bunch of fast food restaurants for the most part.
Darlington’s crime is nearly in the top 10 in the state of South Carolina, and folks here are struggling to make ends meet. Besides having a good school system, there’s not a lot of upside to living here. Unless you like car racing.
Darlington is world famous for its racetrack, which brings in throngs of NASCAR fans from all over the country. The Bojangles Southern 500 is coming to town in September this year. Lock your cooler if you go. You wouldn’t want to have any beer stolen.
At number 3: Orangeburg, located about right in between Columbia and Charleston over in Orangeburg County on the north fork of the Edisto River. There’s 12,779 people here. Hartsville is a small town that has its share of struggles.
It’s hard to find a job here. 13.0% of people are out of work, and almost 1 in 3 residents live below the poverty line. The median income is a measly $28,597 a year, and the median home value is right around $113,700.
But, like we saw in other places on this list, safety is the real concern in Orangeburg. The town has the 6th highest property crime rate in the state and one of the highest burglary rates. You have a 1 in 11 chance of having your stuff stolen or damaged each year you live in Orangeburg. But, what’s even more concerning is the violent crime. Folks living here have a 1 in 69 chance of being violently attacked.
People complain that there’s not much to do here, there aren’t many restaurant options and everything is geared toward the older generation. But they get an A+ for diversity, the schools aren’t too shabby, and Edisto Memorial Gardens is beautiful if you want to take a walk or have a picnic – and admission is free.
Marion presents itself as a picture of a quaint little town. For the most part, this image matches the fact, right down to the picturesque historic district. But a lot of worry and pain roils below the surface of this otherwise pleasant burg. It ranks as the 4th worst place to live in South Carolina for 2023.
Mostly, crime and poverty mar the otherwise pretty portrait. Just look at the unemployment rate, which sits at 7.9%. Or consider the median income, which hovers at $27,024. Or contemplate a crime rate that tops the U.S. norm by 160%.
At number 5 is Gaffney, a town about an hour from Charlotte. There’s 12,560 people here, and many of them want to get out, but they’re just stuck. Sure, Gaffney may have that small-town charm – Main Street looks cute, and the people here are nice – but there’s little opportunity here.
The unemployment rate in Gaffney is 12.4%, and more than 1 out of every 4 residents lives below the poverty line. Real estate prices are below the state average – where you can get a house for $106,200. Say what you want about low home prices – they’re that low for a reason, people. Here’s an interesting stat- only 7% of people in Gaffney have a 401k.
And for such a teeny town, the crime is really bad. The violent crime rate is higher than the national average. Residents have a 1 in 65 chance of being beaten up or raped.
Visit Chester and you can see Aaron Burr Rock. You know Aaron Burr…he’s the fool who shot Alexander Hamilton in that delightful musical everyone’s always talking about. He’s also a real person, who was once arrested for treason (for reasons unrelated to shooting Hamilton, by the way). In Chester, he tried to escape, an attempt that involved Aaron Burr Rock, which is now situated in the center of town.
Weird thing to brag about, right? Well, Chester doesn’t have much else going for it. This town in the northern part of the state has an unemployment rate of 9.6% and a median income of $31,210. As a result, more than 1 out of every 4 residents lives below the poverty line.
The unemployment rate is a little lower here (6.9%), and the crime is a tad lower here as well, but things in Union aren’t exactly peachy keen. Homes are valued at $85,000, which is 14th lowest in South Carolina.
On a positive note, the teacher-student ratio one of the lowest in Dillon, meaning the public school kids are getting a lot of attention, and hopefully a lot of love, too.
The city of Union doesn’t even have a Facebook page yet.
Lancaster is named after English royalty. Specifically, the moniker comes from the House of Lancaster, one side of the famous clash known as the War of the Roses. Well, despite the gaudy title, you’ll have trouble finding lords and ladies in this community of 8,489 people. To the contrary, the town is mired in unemployment and poverty.
More than a third of Lancaster falls below the poverty line. At the same time, the unemployment rate sits at an astronomical 16.8%. Education is also a problem in the area. With a few exceptions, the local schools score a 5/10 or worse on Great Schools.
Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $128,200
Unemployment Rate: 10.1%
More on Clinton: Data
Clinton ranks as the 10th worst place to live in South Carolina for 2023, let’s take a look at why.
Clinton experienced a manufacturing boom in the late 19th century, with the introduction of a series of cotton mills. These had all shut down in the early 2000s, however, undermining the area’s economy. What’s left? The number 10 worst place in South Carolina to call home.
With a poverty rate of 26.8%, it’s not hard to see why Clinton makes this list. That comes with a median income of $35,462 and a jobless rate of 10.1%. Along with high unemployment and low wages, the town suffers from a crime rate nearly double the U.S. norm. Inadequate schools and housing also plague the town.
Methodology: How we determined the worst places to live in South Carolina for 2023
To figure out the worst places to live in South 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 64 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 64 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 South Carolina — York. Read on for a detailed look at the ten worst cities in South Carolina.
Summary: Wrapping Up The Worst In South Carolina
If you’re looking at areas in South 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, York ranks as the worst city to live in South Carolina for 2023.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in South Carolina:
- James Island (Pop. 11,618)
- Mount Pleasant (Pop. 88,900)
- Tega Cay (Pop. 12,336)
For more South Carolina reading, check out:
- Richest Cities In South Carolina
- Safest Places In South Carolina
- Best Cities For Singles In South Carolina
Worst Places To Live In South Carolina?
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