The 10 Worst Places To Live In North Dakota For 2023

The worst places to live in North Dakota are Casselton and Jamestown for 2023 based on Friday Night Science.

Sure, we get it. You live in North Dakota for a reason, and it’s not necessarily to `get ahead’ in life. You’re happy with the simple things, most likely. And boring to most Americans would be `fun’ to you.

So calling a place `the worst’ in North Dakota might not resonate as much as it does in other states. But we’re sure you’re curious, so we included you guys in our rankings. After all, the other 49 states we ranked all got tons of attention. You’re welcome!

Just like every other state, North Dakota has its least desirable spots. The purpose of this post is to use science and data to determine which places are the worst you could possibly live in if you make North Dakota your home.

After analyzing 22 of the state’s most populous cities (over 2,100 people), we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in the state of North Dakota:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In North Dakota For 2023

  1. Casselton
  2. Jamestown
  3. Devils Lake
  4. Wahpeton
  5. Grafton
  6. Mandan
  7. Williston
  8. Fargo
  9. Dickinson
  10. Horace

Where are these places, you wonder? And before you get all riled up and say we’re picking on small towns in North Dakota, 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 Dakota is Lincoln.

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 Dakota? The worst place to live in North Dakota is Casselton.

Read below to see how we crunched the numbers and how your city fared in 2023.

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

For more North Dakota reading, check out:

Table Of Contents: Top Ten | Methodology | Summary | Table

The 10 Worst Places To Live In North Dakota For 2023

Casselton, ND

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 2,493
Rank Last Year: 2 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $237,200
Unemployment Rate: 1.4%
More on Casselton:  Data | Photos

Casselton was once the site as the world’s largest pile of empty oil cans. The castoffs from a local gas station were shaped into a 45-foot-tall tower in the 1930s. It lasted until the 21st century, but has since been taken down.

Having lost this landmark, the 2,493 residents of town can take solace in their strong economy. The unemployment rate sits at 1.4% and the median income hovers at $57,227. Overall, it ranks as the worst place to live in North Dakota for 2023.

With that financial base, why does the city end up on this list? Because of a demolished oil-can tower? Not exactly. Instead, the community suffers from a thin diversity and a lack of amenities.

Jamestown, ND

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 15,823
Rank Last Year: 4 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $164,100
Unemployment Rate: 5.3%
More on Jamestown:  Data | Photos

Take a ride through Jamestown and you’ll probably be struck by the giant statue of a bison standing outside the National Buffalo Museum. The image underlines the fact that the town of 15,823 people is surrounded by a sprawling prairie, where giant herds of buffalo once roamed.

This isolation hurts the community. Housing and diversity are below expectations. Meanwhile, local schools score just a 5/10 on Great Schools. Still, as one of the few population centers in the area (and one of the state’s biggest cities, if you can believe it), Jamestown’s economy remains reasonably strong. Its unemployment rate stands at 5.3% and its median income hovers at $49,038.

Devils Lake, ND

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 7,201
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $143,000
Unemployment Rate: 0.7%
More on Devils Lake:  Data | Photos

Devils Lake is the largest city to make this list. It’s just across Devil’s Lake from a reservation in the northern half of the state.

There’s a lot of crime here. In fact, it’s the 2nd most dangerous place in North Dakota. You have a 1 in 22 chance of being the victim of a property crime when you’re within the city limits every year. That’s a lot of stolen Vikings (or Packers) jerseys, and a lot of missing slush burgers and bunny lunches.

Wahpeton, ND

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 7,928
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $133,300
Unemployment Rate: 3.7%
More on Wahpeton:  Data | Photos

Welcome to Wahpeton, home of the Wahpper! In case you don’t know, that’s a 40-foot long statue of a fish, known as the world’s largest catfish. When your town has that going for it, what could go wrong?

Plenty, as it turns out. The local economy is sluggish, with a poverty rate of 17.6%. At the same time, housing and education don’t meet expectations. Meanwhile, crime tracks at 20% above the national average.

Sitting near the Minnesota border on the eastern edge of the state, Wahpeton has more to offer than a giant fiberglass fish. You can also check out the Sheyenne National Grassland, located about 40 minutes away.

Grafton, ND

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 4,186
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 4)
Median Home Value: $97,400
Unemployment Rate: 3.2%
More on Grafton:  Data | Photos

Grafton ranks as the 5th worst place to live in North Dakota for 2023, let’s take a look at why.

Grafton lies in northeast part of the state, near the Minnesota state line and about an hour south of the Canadian border. Founded as a railroad town in the 19th century, the community lands on this list as a result of a weak housing situation and a substandard education system. The local high school scores a horrendous 1/10 on Great Schools.

As the principle population center in the area, Grafton acts as a regional hub. It serves as the county seat and offers significant amenities, including parks and golf courses. If you want a look at historic Grafton, you can check out Elmwood House, a Victorian mansion built in 1895.

Mandan, ND

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 23,784
Rank Last Year: 6 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $217,800
Unemployment Rate: 2.7%
More on Mandan:  Data | Photos

Mandan sits along the Missouri River in the central part of the state, across the bridge from the state capital of Bismarck. That makes the city part of one of North Dakota’s most important metropolitan areas (though, this being North Dakota, the population only reaches 23,784).

The economy of Mandan stands well ahead of most of the towns that show up on these worst cities lists. The unemployment rate comes in at a scanty 2.7%, while median income hovers at $74,341. Still, there are weak spots. Diversity in town is thin and the crime rate beats the national average by about 30%.

Williston, ND

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 27,368
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 2)
Median Home Value: $220,500
Unemployment Rate: 3.7%
More on Williston:  Data | Photos

Williston has seen a major surge in population in recent decades, sparked largely by a local oil boom. The number of residents has swelled from less than 13,000 in the 2000 census to a mark of 27,368 today.

That expansion has come with its share of problems. Sure, the oil industry keeps the economy humming, leading to a 3.7% unemployment rate and a $75,061 median income. But this has led to other problems. Specifically, Williston has experienced something of a crime wave, with a rate now more than 25% above the national average.

Besides its strong financial base, Williston offers excellent outdoor activities.

Fargo, ND

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 124,979
Rank Last Year: 7 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $232,900
Unemployment Rate: 3.8%
More on Fargo:  Data | Photos

With a population of 124,979, Fargo ranks as the largest city in North Dakota. This gives the community some advantages. The economy chugs along with a 3.8% unemployment rate and a $60,243 median income. You’ll also find plenty of activities, from the Plains Art Museum to the Fargo Air Museum.

However, as a big city (by North Dakota standards, anyway), Fargo has its share of problems. The median home price of $232,900 is out of the range of many locals, who earn a median income of $60,243. At the same time, the crime rate stands more than 40% above the national average.

Dickinson, ND

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 24,851
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $236,000
Unemployment Rate: 2.7%
More on Dickinson:  Data | Photos

Dickinson advertises itself as “First Choice for Families, Great Choice for Opportunity.” For most of the cities on these worst lists, that would count as severe false advertising. Here, it actually has some merit.

Bolstered by the North Dakota oil boom, Dickinson boasts a skimpy unemployment rate and a median income of $64,806. Housing and affordability also get solid ratings. The town also has its share of local amenities, such as the Dickinson Museum Center, featuring the Badlands Dinosaur Museum.

So what’s the problem? Well, diversity in town leaves a lot to be desired. At the same time, the city’s schools top out at a 6/10 on Great Schools.

Horace, ND

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 3,141
Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $378,700
Unemployment Rate: 0.7%
More on Horace:  Data | Photos

Methodology: How we determined the worst places to live in North Dakota for 2023

To figure out the worst places to live in North Dakota, 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 the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

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 2,000 people were considered — leaving 22 cities.

We then ranked each city from 1 to 22 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 Dakota — Casselton. Read on for a detailed look at the ten worst cities in North Dakota.

Editor’s Note: This article is an opinion based on facts meant as infotainment. We updated this article for 2023. This is our tenth time ranking the worst places to live in North Dakota.

Summary: Wrapping Up The Worst In North Dakota

If you’re looking at areas in North Dakota 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, Casselton ranks as the worst city to live in North Dakota for 2023.

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

  1. Carrington (Pop. 2,133)
  2. Rugby (Pop. 2,546)
  3. Lincoln (Pop. 4,126)

For more North Dakota reading, check out:

Worst Places To Live In North Dakota?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Casselton 2,493 1.4% $237,200
2 Jamestown 15,823 5.3% $164,100
3 Devils Lake 7,201 0.7% $143,000
4 Wahpeton 7,928 3.7% $133,300
5 Grafton 4,186 3.2% $97,400
6 Mandan 23,784 2.7% $217,800
7 Williston 27,368 3.7% $220,500
8 Fargo 124,979 3.8% $232,900
9 Dickinson 24,851 2.7% $236,000
10 Horace 3,141 0.7% $378,700
11 Minot 48,005 4.2% $217,500
12 Lisbon 2,109 4.3% $127,400
13 Hazen 2,564 5.0% $161,800
14 Stanley 2,079 4.8% $189,100
15 Bottineau 2,141 7.6% $130,100
16 Bismarck 73,321 3.1% $254,400
17 Grand Forks 58,867 4.1% $215,900
18 Beulah 3,070 1.2% $194,300
19 West Fargo 37,913 1.0% $255,300
20 Carrington 2,133 0.0% $132,700
21 Rugby 2,546 0.5% $141,200
22 Lincoln 4,126 2.6% $232,300

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.

13 thoughts on “The 10 Worst Places To Live In North Dakota For 2023

  1. Currently live in Bismarck. I could only live here or Fargo/West Fargo in this state. I love ND though, and it truly is the best state in the country

  2. There have been many horror stories coming out of Williston in recent years, some I’ve heard direct from people I know there, so it can’t possibly be in the top 10 unless you’re allowing average income to trump other factors (read: oil money, oil problems). Also, while Mayville is not an exciting place, it’s hard to imagine it belongs in the bottom 10.

  3. The worst place is any place you do not want to live but are forced to by a backwards legal and social system that is run by those with the most money.

  4. Pretty sure Williston is not on the best places list. What about Dickinson or Bismarck or Mandan? Lincoln being at the top of your list? :/ Your best list sucks. And your worst list? There are definitely worse that I could just rattle off the top of my head. You should get an honest ND opinion and not some outdated facts.

  5. This is a note to the publisher of this article. I think you need to read up more on the other towns in North Dakota, before you make a ridiculous article like this! The places that you listed were the best places are the worst ones in this state!

  6. I live in California now but from Mayville. I am so glad I grew up there.The college and school system in Mayville was outstanding then and now. The park the hockey arena and sports in the area are great assets to the community. We even have a radio station that wasn’t mentioned. I don’t know what you’re smoking but Mayville should be on best places to live. Would like to move back when I retire. Wonderful people my home town. Proud of it.

  7. Was this a joke. It is written with the accuracy of a book review written from the flap on the paper cover. If I was the editor or producer I would seriously check out this author as I believe he never left his/her 450 square foot loft in New York for fear of a crime and simply looked to find the which towns had the least amount of data on the web. Take Grafton, did they note the number of championships they have won in the past 10 years. Probably, 2nd to none in the nation. I am telling you, check this idiot out, they have pulled the wool over your eyes. Time to wake up and get some new blood working for you.

  8. “Population Density (The lower the worse – meaning there’s less to do for indoor entertainment)”

    Your statistics may be accurate but your interpretation of data and the word “worst” is very subjective, faulty and is your opinion. 3 out of 5 places you listed as the best places to live in the state are cities most North Dakotans will ever want to live in.

    Many also pointed out to you that Shell Valley is not even a city.

    Articles like these are misleading and populating the internet. They are a source of confusion and misinterpretation because they are presented as written by an authority.

    There are two acceptable forms of journalism- truthful and satire. This article is not even the latter.

  9. lol, this might be the dumbest shit I’ve read in a long time.

    Shame on Wdaz for giving light to such a foolish website.

  10. Umm Those towns are great. Earn around 30000 a year and buy a home for under 40000. I lived there and moved to Utah where 25000 is the average without a degree, and homes start at 200000 and rent is 1000 a month. Less people, cheaper, better. Get it right.

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