The 10 Worst Places To Live In South Carolina For 2021


We used science and data to determine which cities in the Palmetto State are the real pits.

RoadSnacks is reader-supported. When you click through real estate links on our site, we earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

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:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In South Carolina For 2021

  1. Darlington
  2. Chester
  3. Abbeville
  4. Batesburg-Leesville
  5. Clinton
  6. Union
  7. Greenwood
  8. Georgetown
  9. Marion
  10. Lancaster

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 South Carolina? That would be Darlington.

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 South Carolina reading, check out:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In South Carolina For 2021

Darlington, SC

Overall SnackAbility

2
/10

Population: 6,043
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 6)
Median Home Value: $107,400
Unemployment Rate: 10.7%
More on Darlington:  Data | Photos

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.

Chester, SC

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 5,408
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 3)
Median Home Value: $67,100
Unemployment Rate: 10.4%
More on Chester:  Data | Photos

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 10.4% and a median income of $26,330. As a result, more than 1 out of every 4 residents lives below the poverty line.

Abbeville, SC

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 5,045
Rank Last Year: 15 (Up 12)
Median Home Value: $92,500
Unemployment Rate: 12.4%
More on Abbeville:  Data | Photos

Abbeville is proud of its Burt-Stark Mansion. The manor house, originally built in the 1830s, bills itself as the place where Confederate President Jefferson Davis held his last council of war, therefore making it the place where Civil War ended.

The mansion is now a museum. That means you can walk through one of the few signs of wealth you’ll find in Abbeville. The rest of the town is pretty rough, struggling with low wages and soaring unemployment. As a result, nearly a third of the residents gets by in sub-poverty conditions. Housing, crime, and bad schools are also problems.

Batesburg-Leesville, SC

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 5,647
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 3)
Median Home Value: $113,300
Unemployment Rate: 5.7%
More on Batesburg-Leesville:  Data | Photos

Like two troubled companies merging to stay competitive in an ever-changing market, Batesburg-Leesville was formed through a combination. The separate communities of Batesburg and Leesville consolidated in 1992 to form a single town, now with 5,647 inhabitants.

The town faces an unemployment rate of 5.7%, a median income of $43,980, and a poverty rate of 19.4%. This fuels a massive crime problem, with a crime rate more than double the national average. Education and housing are substandard as well.

Clinton, SC

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 8,443
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 5)
Median Home Value: $78,300
Unemployment Rate: 10.4%
More on Clinton:  Data

Clinton ranks as the 5th worst place to live in South Carolina for 2021, 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 5 worst place in South Carolina to call home.

With a poverty rate of 30.8%, it’s not hard to see why Clinton makes this list. That comes with a median income of $28,174 and a jobless rate of 10.4%. 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.

Union, SC

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 7,769
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 5)
Median Home Value: $80,700
Unemployment Rate: 8.6%
More on Union:  Data | Photos

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.

Greenwood, SC

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 23,269
Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $97,400
Unemployment Rate: 9.5%
More on Greenwood:  Data | Photos

Come to Greenwood for the South Carolina Festival of Flowers. Or check out the Festival of Discovery, a showcase for local arts, crafts, food, and music. But you might not want to stay in town during the rest of the year. Smothering poverty and rampant crime make this one of the worst places in South Carolina…at least when the town isn’t decked out in flowers or discovery.

The 23,269 people of Greenwood deal with a poverty rate of 30.3%. At the same time, crime tops the national average by nearly 190%. Second-rate education and housing compound the problems. For instance, no school in the area ranks better than a 5/10 on Great Schools.

Georgetown, SC

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 8,866
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 6)
Median Home Value: $163,300
Unemployment Rate: 7.6%
More on Georgetown:  Data | Photos

Located along the Atlantic coast in the Winyah Bay, Georgetown came to prominence in its early days thanks to indigo and rice cultivation. As you’ve probably guessed, those aren’t exactly growth industries in the 21st century.

Hence, the town’s appearance on this list. An unimpressive median income and an elevated unemployment rate blight the area. At the same time, the crime rate comes in at triple the national average.

There are signs of the old prosperity in town. For a hint of what it used to be like in Georgetown, you can head to the Kaminski House Museum, a preserved mansion that shows the lifestyle in town during the 1700s.

Marion, SC

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 6,466
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 5)
Median Home Value: $106,700
Unemployment Rate: 16.4%
More on Marion:  Data | Photos

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 9th worst place to live in South Carolina for 2021.

Mostly, crime and poverty mar the otherwise pretty portrait. Just look at the unemployment rate, which sits at 16.4%. Or consider the median income, which hovers at $33,310. Or contemplate a crime rate that tops the U.S. norm by 160%.

Lancaster, SC

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 9,143
Rank Last Year: 18 (Up 8)
Median Home Value: $141,600
Unemployment Rate: 18.0%
More on Lancaster:  Data | Photos

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 9,143 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 18.0%. Education is also a problem in the area. With a few exceptions, the local schools score a 5/10 or worse on Great Schools.

How we determined the worst places to live in South 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 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 — Darlington. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in South 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 South Carolina

If you’re looking at areas in South 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, Darlington ranks as the worst city to live in South Carolina for 2021.

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

  1. Tega Cay (Pop. 10,412)
  2. James Island (Pop. 12,076)
  3. Mount Pleasant (Pop. 86,982)

For more South Carolina reading, check out:

Where Are The Worst Places To Live In South Carolina?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Darlington 6,043 10.7% $107,400
2 Chester 5,408 10.4% $67,100
3 Abbeville 5,045 12.4% $92,500
4 Batesburg-Leesville 5,647 5.7% $113,300
5 Clinton 8,443 10.4% $78,300
6 Union 7,769 8.6% $80,700
7 Greenwood 23,269 9.5% $97,400
8 Georgetown 8,866 7.6% $163,300
9 Marion 6,466 16.4% $106,700
10 Lancaster 9,143 18.0% $141,600
11 North Charleston 111,501 5.0% $174,800
12 Cheraw 5,657 21.1% $109,600
13 Gaffney 12,582 7.8% $111,100
14 Hartsville 7,616 12.1% $147,000
15 Orangeburg 12,861 11.0% $105,600
16 Myrtle Beach 32,700 7.0% $216,100
17 York 8,144 7.6% $138,800
18 Walterboro 5,477 8.1% $107,600
19 Laurens 8,867 7.8% $93,700
20 Newberry 10,245 9.3% $95,300
21 Dillon 6,394 6.7% $118,500
22 Sumter 39,800 10.0% $138,900
23 Camden 7,100 4.7% $159,700
24 Seneca 8,368 5.2% $158,000
25 Clover 6,135 7.8% $152,300
26 Spartanburg 37,424 7.3% $125,600
27 Bennettsville 8,062 12.7% $79,600
28 North Myrtle Beach 16,200 7.9% $266,200
29 Conway 23,838 9.4% $155,000
30 Goose Creek 41,978 4.9% $188,300
31 Fountain Inn 9,301 8.9% $155,600
32 Anderson 27,289 6.4% $136,800
33 Greer 30,854 3.7% $173,100
34 Florence 38,487 5.2% $158,600
35 Easley 20,923 4.4% $159,800
36 Columbia 133,273 6.7% $181,100
37 Hardeeville 6,064 2.9% $336,000
38 Travelers Rest 5,152 2.0% $189,000
39 Rock Hill 73,334 5.7% $155,800
40 West Columbia 17,641 4.6% $142,800
41 Cayce 13,600 4.5% $129,900
42 Hollywood 5,176 2.1% $246,500
43 Central 5,270 7.5% $108,700
44 Hilton Head Island 40,007 3.8% $483,600
45 Port Royal 12,770 7.2% $233,300
46 Moncks Corner 10,743 2.4% $203,200
47 Irmo 12,215 8.1% $125,000
48 Beaufort 13,404 4.1% $214,700
49 Aiken 30,671 5.1% $188,600
50 Summerville 53,037 5.4% $207,800
51 North Augusta 22,908 6.0% $161,100
52 Greenville 67,737 4.3% $292,400
53 Bluffton 20,799 1.4% $290,800
54 Hanahan 24,353 3.7% $228,800
55 Fort Mill 17,692 2.7% $289,200
56 Charleston 135,257 3.4% $330,600
57 Forest Acres 10,412 4.5% $193,700
58 Lexington 21,334 3.7% $190,500
59 Clemson 16,463 3.6% $236,500
60 Simpsonville 22,234 3.6% $173,400
61 Mauldin 25,217 4.8% $163,800
62 Tega Cay 10,412 5.0% $331,100
63 James Island 12,076 1.2% $300,600
64 Mount Pleasant 86,982 2.1% $461,000

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 South Carolina.