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:
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
The 10 Worst Places To Live In Virginia For 2019
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 ranks as the 2nd worst place to live in Virginia for 2019.
While the unemployment rate is high (but not terrible), crime is a real factor here. It’s the 11th most dangerous place you can live in Virginia, according to the latest FBI numbers. If you live here, you have a high chance of being a victim each year.
Residents here earn about $33,939 a year. That’s in the bottom half of what people in Virginia normally make.
Things are starting to get progressively more ‘modern’ and in line with what you expect in a great state such as Virginia when we get to Danville. Sure, the unemployment rate is at 10.1% (which is really high), and the median income is $34,951. But the homes are at least above the $100,000 mark, and the schools aren’t a complete mess.
Franklin’s main issue is crime. It’s the 2nd most dangerous place in the state of Virginia. Is that a surprise?
If you live in Franklin, you have a 1 in 17.9 chance that you’ll be the victim of a property crime. That’s really high, especially for a city of its size. That’s a lot of stolen lawn mowers, cell phones and cameras. Perhaps it’s because the folks here live in far nicer homes than some of the other cities to top this list. They’re targets.
The unemployment rate is higher than the state average at 14.8%.
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.
The same problems that plague other cities on the list also affect Portsmouth. The only real difference is Portsmouth is a tiny bit safer, and the schools are rated a lot higher in terms of resources for students.
However, the unemployment rate in Portsmouth is at 9.7%, which is the 8th worst in Virginia. And households earn a combined $48,727 a year, which is far below the state average. An average home in Portsmouth is merely $169,400.
Portsmouth is across the Tangier Sound on Route 50.
Front Royal is another place in the Old Dominion that has some real eye-opening numbers. The unemployment rate in Front Royal is a staggering 7.7%, but at least those who have jobs earn a modest salary ($49,631 a year). Homes are actually priced respectfully at $193,100, but still far lower than the state average.
Crime in Front Royal is bad, but not horrible.
Pulaski needs some tough love as it ranks as the 9th worst city to live in Virginia for 2019. There’s not a lot to do here, and when you factor in some of the lowest student support in the state and some of the worst weather, it’s not a place you might want to move to.
And the crime in Pulaski is the 19th highest in the state, where 1 in 33.8 people have a chance of being the victim of a property crime, according to the latest FBI numbers.
Hopewell is the 10th worst city in Virginia for 2019. When you’re comparing other cities to Hopewell, things just don’t look great, at least according to science.
Hopewell is the 20th 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 ($122,400), and residents earn just $40,712 a year.
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.
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)
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