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:
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 2019.
For more South Dakota reading, check out:
- 10 Best Places To Live In South Dakota
- 10 Cheapest Places To Live In South Dakota
- 10 Most Dangerous Cities In South Dakota
The 10 Worst Places To Live In South Dakota For 2019
Crime is a factor in Flandreau’s ranking. Among cities over 2,000 (and excluding towns on Native American land), Flandreau has the 8th 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 (5.5%) and home prices ($88,000) are also far below the state average.
Flandreau is located north of Sioux Falls.
Belle Fourche is one of the poorest cities in the state of South Dakota. This city has 3.8% of its residents out of work, and those who have jobs earn under $41,145 a year.
Cities can be charming, but not when they are dangerous. Belle Fourche has the 24th highest crime rate in South Dakota. While the numbers aren’t staggering (South 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 Mount Rushmore State.
Say what you want about how beautiful Mitchell might be. The fact is that the economy here is one of the worst in the state.
The unemployment rate rankss 9th highest in the state at 4.8%. Homes are the 16th lowest priced ($133,900), and the median income per household is just a tad over $45,264.
The fact is most of the people who live here are having a hard time making ends meet, when you consider their earned incomes and lack of jobs.
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.
You can’t blame them for living in Mobridge since it’s really beautiful, but there are sacrifices you make to live in the boonies. One of them is income.
Not only is the unemployment rate the 6th highest in the state here (5.2%), the residents in Mobridge earn the smallest household income in the state of South Dakota. At a combined income of $43,243, families of four are barely above the poverty line.
In addition, the crime here is really high for a small city in South Dakota. Mobridge has the 23rd highest crime rate in the state.
Spearfish has a 3.0% unemployment rate (18th in SD), below average income levels and the 3rd highest crime rate in the state.
This random City-Data comment sums up Spearfish.
“I visited Spearfish over the weekend and I have to say the place just seemed completely depressing.
“I saw lots people around Spearfish who looked…well bad. Like former alcoholics and drug addicts.
“And what’s with the poorish looking area, where there were a lot of people in run down homes?
“Just looked sad.”
If, by some reason, you were driving through Sisseton, after stopping to ask for directions, you may have noticed that things aren’t so peachy keen here.
It’s tough out there for people to stay afloat when their income levels are so low ($38,500) and they can’t get good jobs (9.6% unemployment rate).
Sisseton ranks as the 7th wost place in South Dakota.
Lead is in a bad place. Again, the household incomes here are really, really low, and the average home value is $111,600. That means it ranks as the 9th lowest in South Dakota.
You can make a case that based on the fact that Lead has no real indoor entertainment, and crime is the 32nd worst in the state, it’s one of the worst places you can live in South Dakota.
Sturgis needs some tough love as it ranks as the 9th worst city to live in South Dakota for 2019.
Crime in Sturgis is the 7th highest in the state, where 1 in 34.8 people have a chance of being the victim of a property crime, according to the latest FBI numbers.
Additionally, the income is almost dead last in South Dakota.
If commute time is important, Sturgis residents have the 12th longest commute of any residents on our list.
Box Elder 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.
Box Elder residents earn the 21st-lowest salaries in the state. At $49,290 a year, people here most likely have a hard time getting ahead in life. And the average home costs are $130,700, which means there isn’t a lot of demand.
Crime is the 18th highest in South Dakota per capita, and the unemployment rate here is 15th highest in the state, at 3.5%.
How we determined the worst places to live in South Dakota for 2019
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
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.
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 2019.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in South Dakota:
- Dell Rapids (Pop. 3,683)
- Tea (Pop. 4,866)
- Brandon (Pop. 9,731)
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