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 5,200 people), we came up with this list as the 10 worst places to live in Virginia:
- Emporia (Photos)
- Petersburg (Photos)
- Danville (Photos)
- Galax (Photos)
- Martinsville (Photos)
- Franklin (Photos)
- South Boston (Photos)
- Pulaski (Photos)
- Hopewell (Photos)
- Richlands (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. Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2017.
How we determined the worst places to live in Virginia for 2017
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
The data comes from the Census’s most recent American Community Survey and from the FBI Uniform Crime Report.
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 5,200 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.
Population: 5,672Home Values: $115,000 (12th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 19.1% (1st worst)
Emporia is one of the poorest cities in the state of Virginia. Located on the North Carolina border, this city has 19.1% of its residents out of work, and those who have jobs earn under $28,601 a year.
Small towns can be charming, but not when they are dangerous. Emporia has the 4th 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.
Population: 32,123Home Values: $111,900 (10th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 13.0% (3rd worst)
If you’re looking to live in Virginia, Petersburg might not be the best choice as it places 2nd in our ranking of the worst places to live in the Old Dominion for 2015.
The average family earns $31,798 a year out here, and 23.6% of the population is below the poverty line. Nearly 13.0% 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 Petersburg, every year, you have a 1 in 32.4 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 16th most dangerous place in the state, per capita.
Population: 42,450Home Values: $88,600 (2nd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 12.7% (5th worst)
Danville, VA needs a big hug right now. The unemployment rate here is 12.7%, the median income is just above the poverty line, and the crime is the 6th highest in the state. You have a 1 in 24.4 chance of being robbed here every year.
You could find a much better place to call home.
Population: 6,876Home Values: $91,000 (5th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.4% (37th worst)
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 4th 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 $30,604 a year, which is below the poverty line for a family of four. It’s the 5th lowest income in the state.
Home values are some of the lowest in the state at $91,000. 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 4th worst city in Virginia.
Population: 13,624Home Values: $89,100 (3rd worst)
Unemployment Rate: 11.5% (9th worst)
Martinsville has a 11.5% unemployment rate (9th in VA), below average income levels and the 20th highest crime rate in the state.
This random City-Data comment sums up Martinsville.
“I visited Martinsville over the weekend and I have to say the place just seemed completely depressing.
“I saw lots people around Martinsville who looked…well bad. Like former alcoholics and drug addicts.
“And what’s with the poorish looking area, where there were a lot of people in run down homes?
“Just looked sad.”
Population: 8,457Home Values: $178,700 (31st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 13.7% (2nd worst)
The unemployment rate in Franklin is a sky high 13.7%, which is the 2nd highest in the state. Ouch.
The median income in Franklin is $32,399. That means 14.0% of the population is living below the poverty line. Crime isn’t horrible here, but you have a 1 in 18.5 chance of being the victim of a property crime when you’re within city limits every year.
7. South Boston
Population: 8,037Home Values: $124,100 (15th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 11.3% (10th worst)
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.
Population: 8,958Home Values: $101,600 (8th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 8.6% (22nd worst)
When you’re looking at science and data, Pulaski is the 8th worst place you can live in the state of Virginia. Let’s see why.
First off, the crime here is really high, in comparison to the rest of Virginia. Pulaski is the 25th most dangerous place you can live in the state, where you have a 1 in 36.1 chance of being the victim of some type of property crime. Meaning lots of people are getting robbed here.
Homes here average $101,600, which is the 8th lowest in the state. You can defend ‘cheap living’ all you want, but the fact is, homes are priced by demand, and there’s not a lot of demand to live in Pulaski.
Income levels are just about $37,485, the 20th lowest in Virginia.
When you add it all up, Pulaski really is quite an undesirable place to live. The people who have to live in here could use a big hug right about now.
Population: 22,279Home Values: $123,800 (14th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 12.8% (4th worst)
Hopewell is one of the poorest cities in the state of Virginia. This city has 12.8% of its residents out of work, and those who have jobs earn under $39,064 a year.
Cities can be charming, but not when they are dangerous. Hopewell has the 22nd 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.
Population: 5,630Home Values: $95,500 (6th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.8% (34th worst)
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.
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 2017.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Virginia:
- Vienna (Pop. 16,341)
- Falls Church (Pop. 13,308)
- Purcellville (Pop. 8,658)
For more Virginia reading , check out:
- 10 Small Towns In Virginia Where You’d Never Want To Live
- These Are The 10 Most Miserable Cities In Virginia
- These Are The 10 Worst Places To Live In Virginia
Detailed List Of The Worst Cities In Virginia
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