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)
- Franklin (Photos)
- South Boston (Photos)
- Martinsville (Photos)
- Portsmouth (Photos)
- Front Royal (Photos)
- Pulaski (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.
When you’re looking at the worst places you could live in Virginia, Petersburg came in 2nd. Let’s see why.
Located in Petersburg city with a population of 32,037, Petersburg has the 3rd highest unemployment rate in Virginia. Crime is high for the state as well, coming in as the 11th most dangerous.
Additionally, 27.6% of the population lives below the poverty line.
Danville, where there’s absolutely nothing to do unless you enjoy bowling, ranks as the 3rd worst city in Virginia.
Besides the lack of pure amenities, Danville has some real economic problems to contend with. The unemployment rate hovers near 10.1%, and families earn around $34,951 a year. It’s also the 5th highest in Virginia for crime, where 1 in 23.2 people gets robbed every year.
Does living in a place where people who come to visit are robbed sound like fun?
You can sure expect that Franklin is going to be a pretty rough place to live, it comes in 4th in our analysis. It is. In fact, Franklin has the 2nd-highest crime rate in the state. Probably no surprises there.
There were 30 violent crimes here in 2019, and residents have a 1 in 17.9 chance of being the victim of a property crime. That means, most likely, if you live in Franklin, either you or someone on your block had their home or car broken into last year.
You can also imagine that the economy here is in the pits — the unemployment rate sits at 14.8% which is the 2nd worst in Virginia.
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.
There’s probably not many people in Virginia that would be surprised to see Martinsville on this list. In fact, if Martinsville wasn’t somewhere in the top 10, most people would start to wonder if our data was accurate.
Here are the statistics. Martinsville has the 18th worst crime rate in Virginia. No surprises there. How dangerous is it though? There were almost 40 violent crimes in Martinsville in 2019. Residents here had a 1 in 331 chance of being killed, raped or attacked. Just wow.
The home values in Martinsville are the 3rd cheapest in the state ($90,100), the unemployment rate is the 15th highest (8.3%), and the annual household income is 5th lowest in Virginia, at $33,545. That’s basically at the poverty level for a family of four.
Yes, every dog has a few fleas. But the crime in Portsmouth is actually quite atrocious. Some of the punks there who are causing trouble need a time out. It’s that simple.
Residents here have a 1 in 141 chance of being the victim of a violent crime, meaning raped, attacked or murdered. And they have a 1 in 17.5 chance of being robbed each year. That’s off the charts high.
And the unemployment rate is at 9.7%, which isn’t horrible, but the 8th-highest in the state. Plus, residents here earn about $48,727 a year in combined household income.
When you’re looking at the worst places you could live in Virginia, Front Royal came in 8th. Let’s see why.
When you’re comparing the unemployment rate to the rest of the nation, Virginia residents are very hard workers. But when comparing the unemployment rate among cities in Virginia, you can see some really big differences. In Front Royal, the number of people out of work is 7.7%
In Virginia, that’s the 20th highest in the state.
The residents in Front Royal have the 35th lowest incomes in the state. Folks in Front Royal average $49,631 a year. Which isn’t too shabby in comparison to the other ‘lowest’ income cities in most other states.
Additionally, the homes are valued at $193,100 on average. That’s the 34th lowest in the state.
Pulaski’s situation is very similar to others on the list; bottom of the barrel scores in unemployment, income, and crime, with decent education statistics keeping it from the very top of this list.
Pulaski has the 19th worst crime index of any place in Virginia, and has the 20th lowest income.
When you’re looking at things from purely a scientific standpoint, Hopewell 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. Hopewell 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 Hopewell are the 14th 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.
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)
- Vienna (Pop. 16,474)
- Bridgewater (Pop. 5,930)
For more Virginia reading, check out:
- These Are The 10 Best Places To Retire 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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