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:
- Flandreau (Photos)
- Belle Fourche (Photos)
- Mitchell (Photos)
- Custer (Photos)
- Mobridge (Photos)
- Spearfish (Photos)
- Sisseton (Photos)
- Lead (Photos)
- Sturgis (Photos)
- Box Elder (Photos)
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
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.
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 a really small, densely populated place in South Dakota.
The unemployment rate here is sky high at 3.8%, and income levels are the 4th lowest in South Dakota. Homes sell for an average of $113,600.
If you’re trying to have some sort of professional career in South Dakota, this is one of the last places you would want to live.
Located on your way to somewhere else you’d want to be, Mitchell has few options for some sort of entertainment.
The main issues here are economic and education. The unemployment rate is also sky high here (4.8%) and homes are the 16th cheapest in the state ($133,900).
Say what you want about ‘cheap living’, the fact is, homes are priced by demand, and there’s absolutely no demand to live in Mitchell.
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.
Mobridge ranks as the 5th worst city on this list.
Mobridge has the 23rd highest crime rate in South Dakota, where residents have a 1 in 69.8 chance of being robbed every year. Homes are the 3rd cheapest in the state ($86,800), and the uninsured rate here is far below average as well.
Spearfish, SD needs a big hug right now. Residents here are underpaid, underemployed and possibly lonely.
Additionally, crime is 3rd worst in the state, which is very high considering Spearfish is so far removed from the rest of South Dakota.
If you know anyone in Spearfish, dm them on Facebook and tell them you love them. They can probably use it right about now.
Sisseton ranks as the 7th worst city in South Dakota. Located in Roberts County, Sisseton has the 3rd lowest income levels in the state of South Dakota ($38,500), and some of the lowest number of doctors in the state. Crime is above average, and the unemployment rate is 9.6%.
Lead is a hot mess right now. There are some big economic problems here AND crime is really high. In fact, Lead is the 32nd most dangerous place you can live in South Dakota.
Residents in Lead have a 1 in 177.7 chance of being the victim of a property crime. That’s a lot of stolen laptops, cell phones and sunglasses.
When you’re considering home prices, you can’t do much lower than in Lead, where average homes are valued at only$111,600. That’s the 9th-lowest in the state. But residents earn far less than in other cities, so their mortgage payments might still seem overwhelming.
While numbers in South Dakota are clearly better when you compare them to the rest of the nation, the fact is when you compare South Dakota cities against one another, you see big differences.
Home values in Sturgis average $147,100, which is the 22nd lowest in the state. Say what you want about ‘cheap living,’ the fact is homes are priced by demand, and there’s not a lot of demand to live in Sturgis.
Plus, 11.9% of the population here lives below the poverty line.
Plus, the crime rate is the 7th highest in the state here. Every year, when you’re within Sturgis city limits, you have a 1 in 34.8 chance of being robbed. That’s a lot of broken into cars and homes.
Box Elder takes the 10th worst place spot on this list for a number of reasons — below average education, income, unemployment, and student expenditure statistics.
But what gives Box Elder its main thrust toward the top of this shameful list is its crime index — the 18th worst in the whole state.
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)
For more South Dakota reading, check out:
- These Are The 10 Best Places To Retire In South Dakota
- These Are The 10 Richest Cities In South Dakota
- 10 Safest Places In South Dakota
- 10 Best Cities For Singles In South Dakota
Detailed List Of The Worst Places To Live In South Dakota