Virginia is a really beautiful place, and it’s almost four states in one. On one hand you’ve got your politically motivated and super rich, and then down the coast, a large swath of middle class Americans. Then, you’ve got the largest portion, a mix of self-admitted rednecks who still identify with the south.
And then you’ve got D.C. and its burbs. That’s just another story all together.
But is it all great in the “Old Dominion”? Of course not. Just like every other state, Virginia has its trouble spots. The purpose of this post is to use science and data to determine which cities in Virginia are the least desirable to live in.
Of course, you’ll most likely disagree if you see your town atop this list. But nonetheless, according to science, these cities are the worst places you could possibly live if you make Virginia your home. These places need a big hug right about now.
After analyzing 62 of the state’s most populous cities (over 5,200 people), we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in Virginia:
- Emporia (Photos)
- Petersburg (Photos)
- Danville (Photos)
- Pulaski (Photos)
- Galax (Photos)
- South Boston (Photos)
- Martinsville (Photos)
- Marion (Photos)
- Franklin (Photos)
- Hopewell (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. Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2018.
- 10 Best Cities For Singles In Virginia
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How we determined the worst places to live in Virginia for 2018
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 5,200 people were considered — leaving 62 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 62 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 Virginia — Emporia. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in Virginia.
This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased.
Population: 5,565Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Home Values: $122,600 (14th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 18.8% (1st worst)
More on Emporia: Data | Photos
Emporia is one of the poorest cities in the state of Virginia. Located on the North Carolina border, this city has 18.8% of its residents out of work, and those who have jobs earn under $27,169 a year.
Small towns can be charming, but not when they are dangerous. Emporia has the 2nd highest crime rate in Virginia. While the numbers aren’t staggering (Virginia 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 Old Dominion.
Population: 31,997Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Home Values: $111,300 (10th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 13.7% (3rd worst)
More on Petersburg: Data | Photos
Located on your way to somewhere else you’d want to be, Petersburg has few options for some sort of entertainment.
The main issues here are economic and education. The unemployment rate is also sky high here (13.7%) and homes are the 10th cheapest in the state ($111,300).
Say what you want about ‘cheap living’, the fact is, homes are priced by demand, and there’s absolutely no demand to live in Petersburg.
Population: 42,360Rank Last Year: 3 (No Change)
Home Values: $90,800 (4th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 11.8% (4th worst)
More on Danville: Data | Photos
Danville is another place in the Old Dominion that has some real eye-opening numbers. The unemployment rate in Danville is a staggering 11.8%, but at least those who have jobs earn a modest salary ($33,721 a year). Homes are actually priced respectfully at $90,800, but still far lower than the state average.
Crime in Danville is bad, but not horrible.
Years ago, someone told me the sun never shines in Pulaski. That’s not true, of course, but you can understand why she might say that when you analyze certain facts about Pulaski. Of the 62 cities considered in this ranking, Pulaski had the least to be proud of across the board.
Not only does Pulaski have Virginia’s 5th lowest home value rank, but it also had the 5th and 19th highest rankings in unemployment and crime respectively. Statistics like that will certainly make the sun shine a bit dimmer, and it will win you are in contention for title of “Worst City in Virginia.”
If you know anyone in Pulaski, tag them on Facebook and tell them you love them. They can probably use it right about now.
Population: 6,858Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 1)
Home Values: $101,600 (6th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.6% (33rd worst)
More on Galax: Data | Photos
Galax is a small town on the North Carolina state line that most refer to as the Appalachian region of the state. Sure, it’s in a beautiful area, and there’s lots of culture, especially in terms of music. But, if you’re measuring desirability, it’s the 5th worst in Virginia. Let’s see why.
When you’re comparing the unemployment rate in Virginia to the rest of the nation, Virginians are pretty hard workers. But when comparing Virginians to other Virginians, you see some big gaps. The unemployment rate in Galax is 6.6%, which is one of the highest levels in the state.
However, the pure economics of Galax are way behind the times. Residents here earn about $31,110 a year, which is below the poverty line for a family of four. It’s the 4th lowest income in the state.
Home values are some of the lowest in the state at $101,600. And, crime here is actually above average.
And when you consider the sheer number of things to do for entertainment, if you’re not into exploring the outdoors, you’ve got a long drive for some fun. Keep in mind this part of the state has some pretty lousy weather for half the year as well.
Add it all up and Galax is the 5th worst city in Virginia.
6. South Boston
Population: 8,000Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 1)
Home Values: $114,700 (12th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.4% (26th worst)
More on South Boston: Data | Photos
The city of South Boston is east of Danville on Route 58 in Halifax County. In looking at the scientific reasons South Boston ranks so high on this ‘worst’ list, we see most of the same factors we’ve seen before. Besides a decent public school system, the economy here is really in the pits.
South Boston has some of the same economic factors that we saw in the Appalachian towns listed above. Except it’s not in the sticks.
People on City-Data have said South Boston is ‘boring and without culture’ and a ‘crack head town.’ We’re not going to assume they speak for everyone, but it wasn’t possible to find anyone who had something nice to say about this place on the internet.
Population: 13,551Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 2)
Home Values: $88,700 (3rd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.0% (9th worst)
More on Martinsville: Data | Photos
Martinsville is the 7th worst city in Virginia for 2015. When you’re comparing other cities to Martinsville, things just don’t look great, at least according to science.
Martinsville is the 27th most dangerous place in Virginia, according to FBI statistics. And the residents here have a hard time keeping a job — at least in comparison to the rest of the state. The unemployment rate is 10.0%, worse than the state average.
Home values are really low ($88,700), and residents earn just $31,719 a year.
Population: 5,891Rank Last Year: 15 (Up 7)
Home Values: $107,800 (8th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 7.8% (24th worst)
More on Marion: Data | Photos
The same problems that affect Galax also surface with Marion. Wedged in the Allegheny Mountains on I-81, Marion has a higher unemployment rate (7.3%) and lower home values ($102,900) than Galaxians do. However, residents here earn slightly higher salaries.
What really makes Marion a real trouble spot is the quality of the schools. Here, students get just about the least amount of attention, per teacher than any other place, and the amount spent per student ($9,500) is far below the national average.
Crime is a tad bit higher in Marion as well.
And, considering that Marion has some of the coldest temperatures in the state, it can be a really undesirable place to live for a lot of the year.
Population: 8,413Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 3)
Home Values: $171,700 (27th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 14.6% (2nd worst)
More on Franklin: Data | Photos
Say what you want about how beautiful Franklin might be. The fact is that the economy here is one of the worst in the state.
The unemployment rate rankss 2nd highest in the state at 14.6%. Homes are the 27th lowest priced ($171,700), and the median income per household is just a tad over $38,333.
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.
Population: 22,332Rank Last Year: 9 (Down 1)
Home Values: $125,400 (15th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 10.8% (7th worst)
More on Hopewell: Data | Photos
Hopewell is a hot mess right now. There are some big economic problems here AND crime is really high. In fact, Hopewell is the 16th most dangerous place you can live in Virginia.
Residents in Hopewell have a 1 in 34.8 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 Hopewell, where average homes are valued at only$125,400. That’s the 15th-lowest in the state. But residents earn far less than in other cities, so their mortgage payments might still seem overwhelming.
Wrapping Up The Worst In Virginia
If you’re looking at areas in Virginia 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, Emporia ranks as the worst city to live in Virginia for 2018.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Virginia:
- Vienna (Pop. 16,378)
- Bridgewater (Pop. 5,906)
- Purcellville (Pop. 8,914)
For more Virginia reading, check out:
- 10 Best Places To Live In Virginia
- 10 Best Cities For Singles In Virginia
- These Are The 10 Richest Cities In Virginia
Detailed List Of The Worst Cities In Virginia
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