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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 61 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:
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 2020.
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 2020
Emporia is one of the poorest cities in the state of Virginia. Located on the North Carolina border, this city has 23.3% of its residents out of work, and those who have jobs earn under $30,857 a year.
Small towns can be charming, but not when they are dangerous. Emporia has the 9th 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.
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 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 $31,938 a year, which is below the poverty line for a family of four. It's the 3rd lowest income in the state.
Home values are some of the lowest in the state at $101,100. 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.
Yes, every dog has a few fleas. But the crime in Petersburg 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 142 chance of being the victim of a violent crime, meaning raped, attacked or murdered. And they have a 1 in 34.7 chance of being robbed each year. That's off the charts high.
And the unemployment rate is at 11.3%, which isn't horrible, but the 3rd-highest in the state. Plus, residents here earn about $36,135 a year in combined household income.
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.
Danville is the 5th worst city in Virginia for 2020. When you're comparing other cities to Danville, things just don't look great, at least according to science.
Danville is the 7th 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 9.2%, worse than the state average.
Home values are really low ($91,100), and residents earn just $36,301 a year.
Martinsville is one of the poorest cities in the state of Virginia. This city has 7.8% of its residents out of work, and those who have jobs earn under $33,224 a year.
Cities can be charming, but not when they are dangerous. Martinsville has the 10th 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.
Franklin places 7th in our ranking of the worst places to live in Virginia.
You can imagine it's a pretty simple life down there. Which is fine, unless you look closely at the data.
Homes are the 23rd cheapest in the state, and at $168,300, just about anyone with a pulse can buy a home here. However, the unemployment rate (15.0%) is the 2nd highest in Virginia, and income levels are far below the state average. And 16.2% of the population lives below the poverty line.
Would you have guessed that the area around Franklin has one of the highest crime rates, per capita in Virginia?
The same problems that affect Galax also surface with Marion. Wedged in the Allegheny Mountains on I-81, Marion has a higher unemployment rate (7.3%) and lower home values ($102,900) than Galaxians do. However, residents here earn slightly higher salaries.
What really makes Marion a real trouble spot is the quality of the schools. Here, students get just about the least amount of attention, per teacher than any other place, and the amount spent per student ($9,500) is far below the national average.
Crime is a tad bit higher in Marion as well.
And, considering that Marion has some of the coldest temperatures in the state, it can be a really undesirable place to live for a lot of the year.
When you're looking at the worst places you could live in Virginia, Hopewell came in 9th. Let's see why.
The city has very bad crime (19th worst) and an employment rate that's nearly the highest for cities of its size 8.3%. On the bright side, K-12 student spending is highest here than in the entire state.
While the median household income in Richmond is higher than other towns on this list, causing it to be lower down on the list of "worst cities", Richmond still has the 15th worst unemployment rate in the state, as well as the 6th worst crime index.
Therefore, though the average Richmond household brings in a higher income, there are fewer people working here than in other cities across the state. It doesn't help that everyone has to be constantly worried about crime, either.
How we determined the worst places to live in Virginia for 2020
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 61 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 61 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. You can download the data here.
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 2020.
If you're curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Virginia:
- Falls Church (Pop. 14,067)
- Vienna (Pop. 16,488)
- Bridgewater (Pop. 5,983)
For more Virginia reading, check out:
- Best Places To Retire In Virginia
- Richest Cities In Virginia
- Safest Places In Virginia
- Best Cities For Singles In Virginia
Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Virginia?