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 5,100 people), we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in Virginia:
- Emporia (Photos)
- Petersburg (Photos)
- Danville (Photos)
- South Boston (Photos)
- Martinsville (Photos)
- Franklin (Photos)
- Richlands (Photos)
- Pulaski (Photos)
- Big Stone Gap (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. 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 2019.
For more Virginia reading, check out:
- 10 Best Places To Live In Virginia
- 10 Cheapest Places To Live In Virginia
- 10 Most Dangerous Cities In Virginia
How we determined the worst places to live in Virginia 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 5,000 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.
Emporia is one of the poorest cities in the state of Virginia. Located on the North Carolina border, this city has 20.4% of its residents out of work, and those who have jobs earn under $27,426 a year.
Small towns can be charming, but not when they are dangerous. Emporia has the 8th 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.
Petersburg 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.
Petersburg residents earn the 7th-lowest salaries in the state. At $33,939 a year, people here most likely have a hard time getting ahead in life. And the average home costs are $112,900, which means there isn’t a lot of demand.
Crime is the 11th highest in Virginia per capita, and the unemployment rate here is 3rd highest in the state, at 12.2%.
Danville has some of the same issues that the cities above have. The crime is statistically the 5th-highest in the state of Virginia. And residents earn far less than it takes to live a normal life. The unemployment rank is also higher than almost every other city in the state at 10.1%.
Additionally, 21.5% of the population lives below the poverty line.
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.
The city of Martinsville is the 5th worst place you can live in the state of Virginia in 2019.
It’s unlucky for Martinsville, which has the 15th highest unemployment rate (8.3%), the 5th lowest household incomes ($33,545) and the 3rd lowest home prices in the state ($90,100).
Basically, a lot of people in Martinsville are out of work. And crime is certainly a factor here as well. Although it’s not one of the most dangerous places we’ll look at, it’s in the top 20%.
Add it all up, and this is truly one of the worst places you could live in Virginia.
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 ($38,760) and they can’t get good jobs (14.8% unemployment rate).
Franklin ranks as the 6th wost place in Virginia.
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.
Pulaski is one of the poorest cities in the state of Virginia. This city has 11.2% of its residents out of work, and those who have jobs earn under $40,711 a year.
Cities can be charming, but not when they are dangerous. Pulaski has the 19th 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.
As you might guess, Big Stone Gap is out in mountain land on the western side of the state. And, after reading about the places listed above, you are safe to assume that the economy here is?.lacking.
And you’d be right.
But hey, at least they have a Walmart out here to keep them entertained.
Out of all the places to live in Virginia, Hopewell ranks as the 10th worst — not something to brag about.
Hopewell’s unemployment rate stands at 10.0%. While the income levels out here are some of the lowest in the state. Residents earn a combined $40,712 a year in salaries. That’s not enough to really get ahead in life.
Additionally, the homes are the 14th cheapest in the entire state at $122,400. Again, some people like the cheap cost of living, but housing is priced on demand, and the fact is, there’s not a lot of demand to live way out in Hopewell. Plus, what do you do for fun here anyway?
Crime is the 20th worst in the state. You have a 1 in 37.5 chance of being robbed here and a 1 in 282 chance of being attacked or raped. Yikes.
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 2019.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Virginia:
- Falls Church (Pop. 13,843)
- Bridgewater (Pop. 5,930)
- Vienna (Pop. 16,474)
For more Virginia reading, check out:
- 10 Most Ghetto Cities In Virginia
- These Are The 10 Richest Cities In Virginia
- 10 Safest Places In Virginia
- 10 Best Cities For Singles In Virginia
Detailed List Of The Worst Places To Live In Virginia
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