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:
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.
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The 10 Worst Places To Live In North Dakota For 2023
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.
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 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.
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 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 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 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.
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 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.
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
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.
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:
- Carrington (Pop. 2,133)
- Rugby (Pop. 2,546)
- Lincoln (Pop. 4,126)
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Worst Places To Live In North Dakota?