The 10 Worst Places To Live In North Dakota

We used science and data to determine which cities in NoDak 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 2020. This is our sixth time ranking the worst places to live in North Dakota.

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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 23 of the state's most populous cities (over 2,000 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 2020

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

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 Dakota? That would be Mandan.

Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2020.

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:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In North Dakota For 2020

Mandan, ND

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 21,943
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 5)
Median Home Value: $207,100 (17th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 3.5% (6th worst)
More on Mandan:  Data | Photos

Welcome to Mandan, which might be one of the poorest areas in North Dakota. Residents average $64,122 a year in combined income, which is right at the poverty line. In fact, 9.6% of Mandan residents live below the poverty level.

Homes here go for an average of $207,100 and the unemployment rate hovers near 3.5%.

Devils Lake, ND

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 7,317
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 1)
Median Home Value: $115,600 (4th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 0.7% (18th worst)
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.

Williston, ND

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 26,102
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 4)
Median Home Value: $249,400 (22nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 2.7% (12th worst)
More on Williston:  Data | Photos

Williston is one of the poorest cities in the state of North Dakota. This city has 2.7% of its residents out of work, and those who have jobs earn under $85,426 a year.

Cities can be charming, but not when they are dangerous. Williston has the 6th highest crime rate in North Dakota. While the numbers aren't staggering (North Dakota is a relatively safe place when you compare it to the rest of the country), it's still undesirable when you consider that there are far safer (and more stimulating) places to make your home in the Peace Garden State.

Jamestown, ND

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 15,368
Rank Last Year: 4 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $136,700 (8th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 3.2% (9th worst)
More on Jamestown:  Data | Photos

When you're looking at the worst places you could live in North Dakota, Jamestown came in 4th. Let's see why.

When you're comparing the unemployment rate to the rest of the nation, North Dakota residents are very hard workers. But when comparing the unemployment rate among cities in North Dakota, you can see some really big differences. In Jamestown, the number of people out of work is 3.2%

In North Dakota, that's the 9th highest in the state.

The residents in Jamestown have the 8th lowest incomes in the state. Folks in Jamestown average $53,310 a year. Which isn't too shabby in comparison to the other 'lowest' income cities in most other states.

Additionally, the homes are valued at $136,700 on average. That's the 8th lowest in the state.

Fargo, ND

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 120,209
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 3)
Median Home Value: $199,700 (15th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 3.5% (8th worst)
More on Fargo:  Data | Photos

Fargo's situation is very similar to others on the list; bottom of the barrel scores in unemployment, income, and crime, with decent education statistics keeping it from the very top of this list.

Fargo has the 3rd worst crime index of any place in North Dakota, and has the 7th lowest income.

Grand Forks, ND

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 56,556
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $197,900 (14th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 4.1% (3rd worst)
More on Grand Forks:  Data | Photos

Things are starting to get progressively more 'modern' and in line with what you expect in a great state such as North Dakota when we get to Grand Forks. Sure, the unemployment rate is at 4.1% (which is really high), and the median income is $47,871. But the homes are at least above the $100,000 mark, and the schools aren't a complete mess.

Casselton, ND

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 2,508
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $194,100 (12th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 1.6% (14th worst)
More on Casselton:  Data | Photos

When you're looking at things from purely a scientific standpoint, Casselton is the 7th worst place in the state of North Dakota.

The U.S. defines the poverty line at $24,600 a year for a family of four. Casselton is right on the verge of that when you look at what the average citizen there earns a year. And the home values are eye-opening low. On average, the home value in Casselton are the 12th lowest in the entire state.

And when you factor in high crime and a high tax rate, it really can't get much worse in North Dakota.

Bottineau, ND

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 2,199
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 3)
Median Home Value: $143,800 (9th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 8.2% (1st worst)
More on Bottineau:  Data | Photos

Out of all the places to live in North Dakota, Bottineau ranks as the 8th worst -- not something to brag about.

Bottineau's unemployment rate stands at 8.2%. While the income levels out here are some of the lowest in the state. Residents earn a combined $53,164 a year in salaries. That's not enough to really get ahead in life.

Additionally, the homes are the 9th cheapest in the entire state at $143,800. Again, some people like the cheap cost of living, but housing is priced on demand, and the fact is, there's not a lot of demand to live way out in Bottineau. Plus, what do you do for fun here anyway?

Crime is the 10th worst in the state. You have a 1 in 41.2 chance of being robbed here and a 1 in 330 chance of being attacked or raped. Yikes.

Grafton, ND

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 4,192
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 6)
Median Home Value: $79,800 (1st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 3.5% (7th worst)
More on Grafton:  Data | Photos

Not too far from Park River is the mid-sized town of Grafton. Grafton places 9th in our ranking of the worst places to live in North Dakota.

Here, school spending per student is the 3rd lowest in the state, homes are some of the cheapest in North Dakota, and crime is far above state average.

Dickinson, ND

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 22,707
Rank Last Year: 10 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $235,300 (21st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 3.6% (5th worst)
More on Dickinson:  Data | Photos

Dickinson is also a pretty crummy place to live, when you look at the numbers. Yes, we're aware that it's beautiful and "fun". But that ignores important things like jobs and income.

Dickinson residents earn the 16th-lowest salaries in the state. At $73,025 a year, people here most likely have a hard time getting ahead in life. And the average home costs are $235,300, which means there isn't a lot of demand.

Crime is the 14th highest in North Dakota per capita, and the unemployment rate here is 5th highest in the state, at 3.6%.

How we determined the worst places to live in North Dakota for 2020

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 2,000 people were considered -- leaving 23 cities.

We then ranked each city from 1 to 23 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 -- Mandan. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in North Dakota. 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 Dakota

If you're looking at areas in North Dakota 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, Mandan ranks as the worst city to live in North Dakota for 2020.

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

  1. Beulah (Pop. 3,296)
  2. Hazen (Pop. 2,610)
  3. Lincoln (Pop. 3,594)

For more North Dakota reading, check out:

Where Are The Worst Places To Live In North Dakota?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Mandan 21,943 3.5% $207,100
2 Devils Lake 7,317 0.7% $115,600
3 Williston 26,102 2.7% $249,400
4 Jamestown 15,368 3.2% $136,700
5 Fargo 120,209 3.5% $199,700
6 Grand Forks 56,556 4.1% $197,900
7 Casselton 2,508 1.6% $194,100
8 Bottineau 2,199 8.2% $143,800
9 Grafton 4,192 3.5% $79,800
10 Dickinson 22,707 3.6% $235,300

How Is The Area In ?

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

  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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