The 10 Worst Places To Live In South Dakota For 2021


We used science and data to determine which places in SD 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 Dakota.

You people up there in South Dakota are a tough bunch. You know how to live off the land, many of you hunt, and most of you have a gun. You have beautiful landscapes and, of course, one of the coolest national monuments in the nation.

Plus, you're way better than North Dakota.

Is it all rosy in SoDak? Of course not. Just like every other state, South 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 South Dakota your home.

After analyzing 36 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 South Dakota:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In South Dakota For 2021

  1. Flandreau
  2. Belle Fourche
  3. Milbank
  4. Canton
  5. Huron
  6. Sisseton
  7. Box Elder
  8. Custer
  9. Sioux Falls
  10. Winner

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 Dakota? That would be Flandreau.

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 Dakota reading, check out:

The 10 Worst Places To Live In South Dakota For 2021

Flandreau, SD

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 2,458
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $100,800 (7th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 5.4% (4th worst)
More on Flandreau:  Data | Photos

Crime is a factor in Flandreau's ranking. Among cities over 2,000 (and excluding towns on Native American land), Flandreau has the highest crime rate in South Dakota. Considering that it's just outside of (but not within) an Indian Reservation, you can understand why crime might be so high here.

People in South Dakota are used to not locking their doors. Not here.

The unemployment rate (5.4%) and home prices ($100,800) are also far below the state average.

Flandreau is located north of Sioux Falls.

Belle Fourche, SD

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 5,616
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $131,500 (13th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.2% (worst)
More on Belle Fourche:  Data | Photos

Belle Fourche sounds more like the name of a Paris cafe than a small town in South Dakota. And, in fact, the name does derive from French, meaning "beautiful fork." (Still seeming like a good name for a cafe...) The fork in question refers to the intersection of a couple rivers.

Despite its fancy-sounding name, Belle Fourche is less than Paris chic. In fact, life in the area is kind of a grind. The town has an unemployment rate of 7.2%, few amenities, little diversity, and unimpressive housing.

The town does have another distinction, though. It sits near the geographic center of the U.S., a fact commemorated in town by the Geographic Center of the Nation Monument.

Milbank, SD

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 3,166
Rank Last Year: 28 (Up 25)
Median Home Value: $130,600 (12th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 4.8% (5th worst)
More on Milbank:  Data | Photos

Milbank is on Route 12 north of Watertown near the Minnesota state line. Here, it's really hard to find jobs, as a 4.4% unemployment rate is the 2nd highest in South Dakota. Residents here earn far less than their South Dakota peers when it comes to annual income levels.

Plus, homes are valued at $98,000, which is the 9th lowest valuation in the state. Maybe that's a reason Milbank's population has shrunk nearly 9% in the last 10 years.

Canton, SD

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 3,447
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $129,300 (11th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 3.4% (11th worst)
More on Canton:  Data | Photos

Canton sits along the Big Sioux River, just across the border from Iowa. Though not an official suburb of Sioux Falls, only a half-hour drive separates the town from South Dakota's biggest city.

Defying the usual expectations for this list, Canton doesn't suffer from a weak economy. In fact, with a 3.4% unemployment rate and a $62,045 median income, the commercial part of community functions rather well.

The town falls short in other realms, however. Specifically, amenities are scarce in town (unless you want to make the trek into Sioux Falls). At the same time, diversity is thin and housing often disappoints.

Huron, SD

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 13,282
Rank Last Year: 17 (Up 12)
Median Home Value: $91,900 (5th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 1.6% (28th worst)
More on Huron:  Data | Photos

Huron ranks as the 5th worst place to live in South Dakota for 2021, let's take a look at why.

Jobs are plentiful in Huron. Unfortunately, so is crime. The unemployment rate hovers at a miniscule 1.6%, a sign of the area's relatively strong economy. Still, the crime rate runs nearly 20% above the national average.

There are other signs of trouble for the town. Despite the abundance of jobs, the poverty rate still hovers at around 20%. Housing and education are also questionable.

Despite these challenges, life in Huron, located in the east-central part of the state, comes with its share of whimsy. Just check out the World's Largest Pheasant to see what we mean.

Sisseton, SD

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 2,468
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $87,200 (3rd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.1% (2nd worst)
More on Sisseton:  Data | Photos

Sisseton sits in the Lake Traverse Reservation in the northeast part of the state. It represents the main population center in the region, with the nearest urban area of any consequence being Fargo, North Dakota. And that's located about an hour and a half to the north.

Given that Sisseton has 2,468 residents, you can guess that the surrounding countryside is pretty sparsely settled. As a result, good-paying jobs are scarce. Sisseton struggles with a 7.1% unemployment rate and a poverty rate of 20.7%.

At the same time, the education system falls short of expectations. None of the local schools scores better than a 3/10 on Great Schools.

Box Elder, SD

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 9,683
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $160,700 (23rd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 2.7% (20th worst)
More on Box Elder:  Data | Photos

Box Elder stands just south of Ellsworth Air Base. The proximity of the military installation gives the town an economic boost, helping the town achieve an unemployment rate of 2.7%. At the same time, the median income comes in at $53,382.

Still, the town ends up on this list. If the economy isn't the issue, what makes it one of the worst spots in South Dakota?

Well, compared to the rest of the state, the cost of living is relatively high. This includes a median home value of $160,700 -- not particularly expensive for the U.S. as a whole, but well above the norm for South Dakota. Meanwhile, the crime rate in town is elevated as well.

Custer, SD

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 2,282
Rank Last Year: 18 (Up 10)
Median Home Value: $139,400 (16th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 3.0% (15th worst)
More on Custer:  Data | Photos

Sure, Custer is a pretty place. Tucked in the middle of the Black Hills Mountains south of Rapid City, the folks who live there would probably defend it to their deaths. But science says it's not very desirable, based on what people say they 'want' in a community.

Custer residents earn the 4th lowest salaries and are the 4th least employed in South Dakota. Crime is above average and home prices are below average. The schools are rated great, though.

So if you like living in the outdoors, and want smart kids, but can handle the fact that you won't earn a decent living and have to put up with more robberies than most of your SoDak peers, this might be the place for you.

Sioux Falls, SD

Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 177,117
Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 3)
Median Home Value: $189,800 (3worst)
Unemployment Rate: 3.0% (17th worst)
More on Sioux Falls:  Data | Photos

South Dakota isn't known for its giant metropolitan areas. Empty prairies, yes. Giant stone president heads, of course. But cosmopolitan urban areas, not so much. Still, every state has its biggest city. For South Dakota, that's Sioux Falls.

For the most part, the community has a lot going for it. The city boasts a hearty economy, including a 3.0% unemployment rate and a $59,912 median income. Housing, diversity, and education all have strong ratings as well.

Still, as a major urban area (at least for South Dakota), Sioux Falls faces some of the problems associated with larger cities. The crime rate, for instance, tracks at 40% above the U.S. norm.

Winner, SD

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 2,826
Rank Last Year: 13 (Up 3)
Median Home Value: $100,700 (6th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 2.9% (18th worst)
More on Winner:  Data | Photos

You'd expect more from a place called "Winner." Yet, here it is, on a list of the least appealing locations in South Dakota. Guess you can't trust the hype.

So what makes Winner such a loser? The economy is actually pretty good. And, with a median home price of $100,700, housing in town is easy to afford.

Still, little things weigh down the area. Housing is poor. The local schools can't score better than a 4/10 on Great Schools. And, located almost three hours from Sioux Falls (or any other bigger metropolitan area), there isn't much to do in town.

How we determined the worst places to live in South Dakota 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 2,000 people were considered -- leaving 36 cities.

We then ranked each city from 1 to 36 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 Dakota -- Flandreau. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in South 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 South Dakota

If you're looking at areas in South 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, Flandreau ranks as the worst city to live in South Dakota for 2021.

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

  1. Tea (Pop. 5,397)
  2. Dell Rapids (Pop. 3,660)
  3. Brandon (Pop. 9,934)

For more South Dakota reading, check out:

Where Are The Worst Places To Live In South Dakota?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Flandreau 2,458 5.4% $100,800
2 Belle Fourche 5,616 7.2% $131,500
3 Milbank 3,166 4.8% $130,600
4 Canton 3,447 3.4% $129,300
5 Huron 13,282 1.6% $91,900
6 Sisseton 2,468 7.1% $87,200
7 Box Elder 9,683 2.7% $160,700
8 Custer 2,282 3.0% $139,400
9 Sioux Falls 177,117 3.0% $189,800
10 Winner 2,826 2.9% $100,700

How Is The Area In ?

29 thoughts on “The 10 Worst Places To Live In South Dakota For 2021

  1. I lived in Redfield for quite some time, granted I was just a kid, but I was never bored, in the summer we would go to Aberdeen to Storybook land which is only 40 miles north, and as to worst place I know a town in SD that is worst then Redfield, at least Redfield knew what to do when it snows, I live in Wyoming now but our town is so dumm they don’t even know how to remove snow right, but I have to agree on the job part that’s why we moved when my dad got a job out here. So part of what you say is good but the other is so wrong.

  2. Casual racism: “Considering that it’s just outside of (but not within) an Indian Reservation, you can understand why crime might be so high here.”

  3. I am surprised to see that milbank has the 2nd highest unemployment rate considering that I love there and any one of my friends who wants/needs a job can easily get one. We may be high schoolers, but if we can get jobs adults can too. Subway has had a help wanted sign for 3 months hanging out there door part time and full time. Caseys is also the same way. And now we have a new Shopko that is hiring.

  4. Redfield is home to South Dakota’s largest state run facility for adults and children with disabilities. Did you account for thay in your statistics? There are countless job in opportunities in town. They have one of the states few drive in theatres and are 40 miles from Aberdeen. Crime is nearly non existent. This article is poorly done.

    1. I only have passed through Redfeild or stayed there for a few days on vacation but it is a pretty good place. My mom used to grow up there for a few years when she was younger. I loved Redfeild when I visited for a few days during the summer or visiting my cousin from when I was younger.

  5. I think my community is the worst town in the State of South Dakota. I do not know when the information was gathered but the population was unreported by 30% and the unemployment rate is almost in the negative numbers with the great amount of industry. As far as scales of friendliness and quality of life my home town is an island I hate being stranded on. I happen to farm where my grandfather settled and appreciate the rich farmland but wish my town would get some personality.

  6. raising our daughter in Redfield was great! She could ride her bike all over town, hang out at the local pool, be active in anything she wanted to do in school, take dance classes, go to the drive-in all summer. Yeh Redfields really a crappy place to live. I think you should keep your opinions and data to yourself

  7. I have relatives in Redfield, never lived there but we sure had fun going there for many years hunting. Met some great people there and we still maintain those friendships. I miss going to Leo’s for breakfast every morning. Have many great memories in Redfield

  8. No place in the Black Hills should be on a “bad place to live list,” for one thing, and they in fact include two communities in the Rapid City metro area as “best places to live.” For another, they assume that any community located on a reservation is going to be “even worse” than their bogus list. How racist is that? Also, Sioux Falls sucks, and it’s not on the list. 😉

  9. Harrisburg is the best place to live?! Sure, the schools are nice (except for Liberty), but that’s all that the town has going for it. The houses are crappy, and the town smells like crap because they store their sewage in ponds in town. No sidewalks to get to the schools and pretty bad traffic in the morning by the high school.

  10. They forgot to mention how Madison residents have an incarnate hatred of fun and feel compelled to suppress fun any time it rears its wee little head.

  11. I would like to add the number 1 worst place to live is Fort Pierre,Sd. They have a live cow auction in themiddle of town. They start their auctions at 7.15am on Saturday mornings. This can be heard all over town. Plus you can hear cows a couple times a week at 2am in morning. The Live Stock Auction is allowed to make as much noise as they want. The mayor nor the police will enforce anything. They think it’s great because it been here for 67 years. It brings down home values. The town is not zoned right. There is also trash all over town. The land owners are jerks. They follow you on public roads just because you look at a pheasant. Both Pierre and Fort Pierre don’t enforce dog laws. I lived in Custer and it is a much better cleaner town.

    1. Johnny, no it’s not! There are no jobs & the schools are??? Okay? My older brother & his family lived there for years & now his widow & son live there. The entire state of South Dakota sucks, frankly, {yes, I have lived here all of my miserable life} & in large part because of the ginormous geopolitical divides & also the massive income inequality. I live in Sioux
      Falls & grew up in the small town of Dell Rapids. Sort of. On a farm 8 miles east of Dell Rapids. The crime rate in Rapid City is also a huge problem & just the physical layout of the city is a nightmare for EMS! Hope that helps. Scenery is beautiful, tho!

  12. I roleplay with Miles, I am a sexual role player. This is why I like Huron the most because I can do gay role plays with people. I also love Lillie.

  13. Lolo or loogie. Justice is fake and gay. Huron sucks big furry testicles, this is why nobody likes Huron. Miles is also super gay and sucks on big black horse cocks.

  14. Wow. These comments really need to be monitored.
    In defense of Flandreau and in particular of the Native Americans who live there: your statement about the nearness of the reservation being the reason for the high crime rate is negated in your statements about Sisseton, which also has a reservation nearby, and whose reservation is much much larger. Crime overall in SD is much lower than many, many places in the US. Tea, Brandon and Dell Rapids are all wonderful places to live, partially due to the nearness of Sioux Falls, our largest city, but housing costs are very very high there, so unless you either have a great education, a high paying position or can work two or three jobs, a small town like Flandreau (only 1/2 hour away from Brookings or Sioux Falls) may be a fabulous option.

  15. this is so wrong , there are towns with less people , that have twice the crime , less desire and jobless rate . do one just by the Statistics and forget Population . I bet it will shock everyone

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