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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 61 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:
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 Virginia? That would be Emporia.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2020.
For more Virginia reading, check out:
- Best Places To Live In Virginia
- Cheapest Places To Live In Virginia
- Most Dangerous Cities In Virginia
The 10 Worst Places To Live In Virginia For 2020
Emporia is one of the poorest cities in the state of Virginia. Located on the North Carolina border, this city has 23.3% of its residents out of work, and those who have jobs earn under $30,857 a year.
Small towns can be charming, but not when they are dangerous. Emporia has the 9th 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.
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 2nd 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 6.4%, 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 $31,938 a year, which is below the poverty line for a family of four. It's the 3rd lowest income in the state.
Home values are some of the lowest in the state at $101,100. 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 2nd worst city in Virginia.
Petersburg places 3rd in our ranking of the worst places to live in Virginia. Here, 20.0% of the adult population lack's even a high school degree. That makes Petersburg have the 8th highest adult drop out rate in Virginia.
Income levels are also near the poverty line, and home prices are around $108,200 each -- the 8th lowest in Virginia.
As you can imagine, there's not a lot of demand to live here.
Back out into the mountains we go. Richlands, way out on a very winding Route 460, has some of the same issues we've noted above. In fact, the public schools in Richlands get the least amount of funding in the state. At $8,500 per student, that's almost half of what kids get on average in the rest of the country.
Low incomes and cheap homes make it purely undesirable for most people. When homes are priced at $98,000 each, that means there isn't a lot of demand to live here.
If you live in Danville, this might not be a surprise, but you have the 7th highest crime rate, per capita in the state of Virginia. Every year you spend here, you have a 1 in 25.4 chance of being the victim of a property crime like a car break in or home invasion robbery.
That's a lot of stolen cell phones, laptops and black license plates.
Plus there were 216 violent crimes in the last FBI reporting year. That means if you spent a year there, you'd have a 1 in 192 chance of being raped or attacked.
Finally, the folks who live here earn the 8th lowest salaries in Virginia At $36,301 a household, that's simply not enough to get by for most folks.
When you're looking at science and data, the city of Martinsville is the 6th worst place you can live in the state of Virginia. Let's see why.
You may be surprised to hear that the crime here is the 10th-highest in the state per capita, according to the FBI data base.
Residents in Martinsville had a 1 in 27.8 chance of being robbed in 2019. To put things into perspective, since the average person has 300 friends on Facebook, if everyone you friended lived in Martinsville, statistically, 25 of them would have been the victim of a property crime, meaning a home robbery, car break in or a stolen wallet.
Martinsville's other issues are a very high unemployment rate (7.8%) and income levels of its residents ($33,224).
If, by some reason, you were driving through Franklin, 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 ($40,375) and they can't get good jobs (15.0% unemployment rate).
Franklin ranks as the 7th wost place in Virginia.
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.
If you're looking to live in Virginia, Hopewell might not be the best choice as it places 9th in our ranking of the worst places to live in the Old Dominion for 2020.
The average family earns $40,497 a year out here, and 21.0% of the population is below the poverty line. Nearly 8.3% of the population is out of work.
And when you consider the crime, it's just crazy to think of how dangerous it is to live way out here. When you're in Hopewell, every year, you have a 1 in 40.5 chance of being robbed. Can you imagine? Perhaps it's an economic factor, or the fact that the people out there are so isolated, but the fact remains, it's the 19th most dangerous place in the state, per capita.
When you're looking at things from purely a scientific standpoint, Richmond is the 10th worst place in the state of Virginia.
The U.S. defines the poverty line at $24,600 a year for a family of four. Richmond is right on the verge of that when you look at what the average citizen there earns a year. And the home values are eye-opening low. On average, the home value in Richmond are the 40th lowest in the entire state.
And when you factor in high crime and a high tax rate, it really can't get much worse in Virginia.
How we determined the worst places to live in Virginia for 2020
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 5,000 people were considered -- leaving 61 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 61 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. 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 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 2020.
If you're curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Virginia:
- Falls Church (Pop. 14,067)
- Vienna (Pop. 16,488)
- Bridgewater (Pop. 5,983)
For more Virginia reading, check out:
- Best Places To Retire In Virginia
- Richest Cities In Virginia
- Safest Places In Virginia
- Best Cities For Singles In Virginia
Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Virginia?