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.

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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.

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 (11th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.7% (8th worst)
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 (worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.4% (10th worst)
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 (5th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 12.4% (5th worst)
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 (16th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 5.7% (34th worst)
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 (2nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.4% (9th worst)
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 (4th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 8.6% (16th worst)
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 (8th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 9.5% (12th worst)
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 (36th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.6% (23rd worst)
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 (10th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 16.4% (3rd worst)
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 (24th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 18.0% (2nd worst)
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

How Is The Area In ?

14 thoughts on “The 10 Worst Places To Live In South Carolina For 2021

    1. Low crime rate…In DILLON?? That’s just not true at all. I have lived here most all of my life and I am in my mid-forties now. Dillon is plagued with drugs, crime, and prostitution. And with the lack of decent paying jobs-mainly due to the fact most companies know it would be foolish to invest their resources here with the lack of educated and/or skilled workers. This town truly should be razed to the ground. I mean, just walk or ride around town and it’s abundantly clear that this is not a very nice place. Pretty much the main source of recreation is simply surviving…definitely not thriving. The schools? But hey, at least we have those Mighty Dillon Wildcats! Right. Now, bash away…But nothing I have stated is untrue.

      Fun Facts:

      1-The overall crime rate in Dillon is 336% higher than the national average.
      2- For every 100,000 people, there are 32.83 daily crimes that occur in Dillon.
      3- In Dillon you have a 1 in 9 chance of becoming a victim of any crime.

      Awesome job!

  1. I live and teach in York. I have to question where the writer got the education statistics. We are ranked in the top 10 the state, not the bottom third. I’m not saying York is Eden (we have a 70% poverty index), but if you are going to write an article calling places the “worst place to live” get the facts straight.

  2. I read your release regarding the 10 worst places to live in South Carolina. Needless to say it was a real shock to see what you said about Cheraw, SC. I have lived here since 1978 and you certainly don’t know all the pluses for this town and area. First of all, your data regarding the median income is way off base. According to the US Bureau of Census, American Community Survey in 2015 the median income for the Cheraw area is $41,170 and area population is estimate to be 14,944. We have one of the most beautiful historic districts in the State, a very active arts commission bringing entertaining and cultural opportunities on a continuing basis to our town. We have great recreational programs for our children, and good schools. We are fortunate to have a good industrial base in our community, with long standing successful companies employing 3,500 in our town. This figure does not include the many positions in our schools and small businesses around the area. Cheraw is fortunate to have Northeastern Technical College with an enrollment of over 1,000. We are home of the official SC Jazz Festival each October, which brings top notch Jazz artist to our town and visitors from all over the country. We will be hosting the National Dog Trials here at our H. Cooper Black Recreational facility this fall.

    Don’t feel sorry for us living in Cheraw. We are thankful to live in a town like Cheraw. Is there room for improvement——— of course. The same can be said for any city or town all over this great country of ours. As president of the Greater Cheraw Chamber of Commerce, we continue to work towards improvement. Come to Cheraw and interview our citizens and visitors. I am sure you will leave with a “hug,” and a different perspective regarding our beautiful town..

    Articles such as your do more harm to communities than help improve them. This is especially true for businesses and industries we may try to recruit, in order to provide more job opportunities and improve the standard of living.

    Make sure you have accurate facts and an understanding of our town before you release misleading information.

    Roger J. Jones
    President
    Greater Cheraw Chamber of Commerce

    1. Folks! This is, by the publisher’s own definition: infotainment. Y’all are taking it way too serious. No matter how thin you fry cornbread, it still has two sides! From my own personal experience of living in a small city, I believe the best thing is to be involved with your city’s Downtown Development Authority<research that!

    2. My wife and I passed thru Cheraw last Monday ( 2/4/18 ) on our way to Patrick…..We both thought it was a pretty little town….We ate lunch at the ” River’s Edge Restaurant “….We enjoyed our meal and liked our friendly server…Even bought a coffee cup to commemorate our passing thru……Looked like there was a lot of history there ………THANKS ,

  3. I am in complete agreement with Roger Jones. Cheraw is known for some of the most beautiful homes in the state. It has two very beautiful golf courses and one of the nicest State Parks anywhere. It is recovering from the stupidity of NAFTA better than most textile based areas and has some promising business opportunities. The old town is scenic and has some good reasons to shop there. The churches are beautiful, plentiful and well attended. Community relations are a plus. While I live in the sister town of Chesterfield (which wasn’t even mentioned) I am in Cheraw daily as I play golf and attend church there. If there is a weak spot it is the typical small town store vacancies due to the presence of Walmart. But, there are some pretty unique places to shop as well with some of the most friendly people you will find anywhere. This article may have filled space in some newspaper or magazine, but it really does not reflect most of these places accurately at all.

  4. I agree 100% with our Cheraw Chamber of Commerce President, Roger Jones. He was spot on!! I would like to also add, insensitive articles as these, are only hurting our small towns across America. Instead of adding to the problems small towns face today, maybe Nick James needs to put his time and efforts into something more positive, like finding solutions to the problems. If more people would stop dwelling on all the negatives and start focusing on the positives, we may be able to move this country forward.

  5. I am from Chesterfied and to say Cheraw is one of the worst places in the state to live is outrageous. The towns of Chesterfield and Cheraw may be rivals in sports but that’s where it stops with me. The historic downtown part is beautiful. It has many great people and great businesses! I have many friends and family members that live in Cheraw that will certainly agree with me.

  6. As a native of Cheraw, I too was shocked to see that Cheraw was listed as #3. It is a gorgeous town, and I feel privileged to have grown up in such a beautiful place. There is a lot to love in Cheraw.

    I lived in Lancaster for a few years, and they had some of the nicest people there. It was the most expensive town I had ever lived in, but it had a lot to offer when I lived there!

  7. This is, as L G White says:
    September 4, 2015 at 11:56 pm
    Folks! This is, by the publisher’s own definition: infotainment. Y’all are taking it way too serious. No matter how thin you fry cornbread, it still has two sides! From my own personal experience of living in a small city, I believe the best thing is to be involved with your city’s Downtown Development Authority<research that!

    I also agree with what Roger J. Jones, President, Cheraw Chamber of Commerce says. 

    THIS is NOT to be taken seriously.  I know the Batesburg-Leesville area and, while it may be fairly accurate regading employment, Columbia, Lexington, Aiken and Augusta, GA and other cities like those, which have less unemployement are just a short drive away.    Not difficult to look for work and not too far to drive in exchange for a quieter and slower paced lifestyle.   Not everyone wants to go to a movie or restaurant every night or even once a week.  Some people like and want a slow paced area. More people know each other and in that same manner, they also look out for one another.  

    This is just data being manipulated to carry out an agenda.  If you don't believe that, just look up the other stories:

    1.  Most Miserable Cities
    2.  Most Snobbiest
    3.  Most Boring

    THIS is just THREE of those 'data manipulated' lists put out.  I would definitely call them infotainment, because they certainly DO NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT OTHER FACTORS PEOPLE CHOOSE (WANT) WHEN DECIDING WHERE TO LIVE.  

  8. Our small Town of Cowpens, S.C. Is a great place to live, with great schools for our children, plenty of great restaurants, and the most friendliest people you’ll ever meet. Very little to no crimes to speak of committed here in our little town and when you see lots of people walking, it’s not because they’re out looking for trouble, it’s because our citizens are very health conscious and we walk for exercise and to meet up with other walkers to chat while we walk. There’s plenty more niceties about Cowpens, just so many to mention. It’s THE BEST PLACE to start and grow your family.
    Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts on our quant beautiful little Town of Cowpens, South Carolina.

  9. You left out Elgin SC .
    It’s where people come to give up on life .
    There is trash every where , people are rude and thoughtless . And when they get in their cars or pick up trucks they totally lose their minds .
    Traffic is overwhelming, growth is out of control
    with self -absorbed yuppies moving to the “country “

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