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 63 of the state’s most populous cities (over 5,000 people), we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in Virginia:
Where are these places, you wonder? And before you get all riled up and say we’re picking on small towns in Virginia, that’s not the case.
We understand there’s a lot of good in every place. For example, the best place to live in Virginia is Lexington.
However, according to data (which doesn’t measure things like beauty and ‘friendly people’), the state has far better options for making a place home. And the worst place to live in Virginia? The worst place to live in Virginia is Petersburg.
Read below to see how we crunched the numbers and how your city fared in 2023.
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 2023
Petersburg was the site of a famous Civil War battle. A siege of the town lasted 9 months and ultimately signaled the last stand of Robert E. Lee’s army.
Times were tough in Petersburg during those months. They remain tough today. All these years later, the town represents the number 1 worst spot in Virginia to put down roots. The area suffers from an anemic economy and a crime rate that runs about 60% above the national average. At the same time, housing and education in the area are substandard.
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 5.1%, 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 $39,808 a year, which is below the poverty line for a family of four. It’s the 7th lowest income in the state.
Home values are some of the lowest in the state at $100,000. 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.
Emporia is one of the poorest cities in the state of Virginia. Located on the North Carolina border, this city has 15.9% of its residents out of work, and those who have jobs earn under $36,111 a year.
Small towns can be charming, but not when they are dangerous. Emporia has the 14th 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.
Don’t go looking for a job in Franklin. They aren’t easy to find. The town’s unemployment rate hovers at 8.5%, the main reason why the community lands on this list of the least enticing hometowns in the state.
A lack of jobs isn’t the only challenge for Franklin’s 8,249 residents. Safety presents a concern as well, with a crime rate nearly 60% above the national average.
Given these problems, it’s surprising that real estate in this southern Virginia town prices many locals out of the market. But that’s what the stats say. The median home value sits at $178,800, compared to a median income of $49,424.
Danville briefly served as the capital of the Confederate States of America at the desperate end of the Civil War. It basically represented a last resort before defeat. These days, the town still has that “last resort” feel, ranking at number 5 on this list of worst places in Virginia to call home.
Located in the south-central part of the state, right along the North Carolina border, Danville faces a host of problems. The local economy only supports a median income of $38,904. At the same time, the crime rate tracks at 60% above the national norm.
Still, the town has its bright spots. History buffs can check out the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History.
A key hub in an otherwise rural part of the state, Roanoke serves as the biggest urban area in the southwestern section of Virginia. This status comes with its share of problems. A lackluster economy, high crime, and a substandard school system make this one of the least inviting places in Virginia.
Cash can be hard to come by in Roanoke. About a fifth of people make due below the poverty line. At the same time, the local crime rate comes in almost double the U.S. standard.
Located in the southwest part of the state, Martinsville represents an important metro area in a largely rural part of the state. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the town becomes a major draw for people outside the region.
Martinsville lands on this list because of a host of problems. It supports a lackluster economy, with a median income of just $36,832. At the same time, crime runs about 30% above the U.S. norm. Education and housing present issues as well.
Methodology: How we determined the worst places to live in Virginia for 2023
To figure out the worst places to live in Virginia, 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 more significant weight. If you did a simple calculation of all crimes per capita, property crimes are typically 7x more common and bias that ranking.
Furthermore, only cities with at least 5,000 people were considered — leaving 63 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 63 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 — Petersburg. Read on for a detailed look at the ten worst cities in Virginia.
Summary: 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 little to do, this is an accurate list.
And in the end, Petersburg ranks as the worst city to live in Virginia for 2023.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Virginia:
- Falls Church (Pop. 14,494)
- Vienna (Pop. 16,465)
- Lexington (Pop. 7,287)
For more Virginia reading, check out:
Worst Places To Live In Virginia?
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