Most people’s thoughts regarding West Virginia are about coal mining, bluegrass, great white water rafting, and the rugged topography of the Appalachian Mountains.
West Virginia defines itself by its natural beauty, as the state slogan, “Wild and Wonderful,” shows. Yet, we all know with certainty that some places in West Virginia are more wonderful than others.
We compiled a list of which places in West Virginia are the least wild and wonderful to live in so you don’t have to find out for yourself.
Here’s the worst of the worst in West 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 West Virginia? That would be Grafton.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2021.
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The 10 Worst Places To Live In West Virginia For 2021
Grafton is a good place to find a home…if you’re dead. It serves as home to two national cemeteries, including the aptly named Grafton National Cemetery. The town also happens to serve as the birthplace of Mother’s Day, created by local Anna Jarvis in 1908. As a result, you can visit the International Mother’s Day Shrine in town.
So Grafton has birth (in the form of mothers) and death (in the form of cemeteries) covered. What about the stuff in between? Unfortunately, that’s where Grafton comes up short.
The community suffers from a weak economy, with a $36,951 median income and a 16.7% unemployment rate. This leads to a poverty rate of 23.5%. Housing, diversity, and education also miss the mark.
Bluefield went through boom times around the start of the 20th century. Located in the mountains in the southernmost part of the state, right along the Virginia border, it represents the site of a major coal discovery. As a result, the town went from less than 2,000 residents in 1890 to a population of more than 20,000 by 1940.
Since then? Well, things have been going the other direction. These days, the town has shrunk to 9,889 residents and the economic prospects have dimmed. The unemployment rate comes in at a scary 11.0%, while even people who find jobs have to make due with a median income of just $36,793.
Let’s start here: Martinsburg’s poverty rate comes in just shy of 30%. Do you need any other stats to explain how it ended up on this list? Okay, how about a 11.2% unemployment rate and a $42,835 median income? Enough for you yet?
Located in the northeast part of the state, Martinsburg sits along I-81, a short drive from the Maryland border and about a half hour from Hagerstown, Maryland. Despite the devastating poverty, the town has its charms. This includes a series of historic buildings, such as the Belle Boyd House and the General Adam Stephen House & Triple Brick Museum.
Compared to some of the other towns on this list, the unemployment rate in Huntington isn’t that bad. It comes in at 6.8%. Unfortunately, these jobs don’t pay very well, resulting in a median income of $31,162. Mired in this low-wage environment, nearly a third of town’s 46,667 residents suffers below the poverty line.
Situated along the Ohio river, just over the water from the state of Ohio, Huntington once provided a vital transportation hub in the western part of the state.
Those boom days are obviously in the past. Still, Huntington does serve as an important commercial and cultural center for the region. Just head over to the Huntington Museum of Art to see what we mean.
Keyser gets its name from an executive of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, way back in the 19th century. You can guess how folks in the area used to make a living. In fact, the town served as an epicenter to an important labor strike in 1877.
Those railroad jobs have scattered since the old days. In modern times, 10.5% of the population find themselves unemployed while nearly a quarter of them struggle below the poverty line. The median income sits at just $36,448.
Keyser sits just across the North Branch Potomac River from Maryland, in the northeast part of the state. The area is known for its deer hunting and is home to WVU Potomac State College.
Moundsville is built along the Ohio River, just across the water from the state of Ohio. It gets its name from an actual mound, the Grave Creek Mound, a remnant of the Adena culture, built over 2,000 years ago. The town has its share of modern culture as well, including the Marx Toy Museum.
Day-to-day is where things get tough. About 1 in 5 of the town’s residents live below the poverty line. This comes as a result of a 6.8% unemployment rate and a $34,701 median income. Moundsville also struggles with housing, diversity, and education.
When nearly a quarter of your residents live below the poverty line, it’s no surprise when it ends up ranked the number 7 worst hometown in West Virginia. The town suffers other problems as well. Housing and diversity miss expectations, and all the local schools receive a rating of 6/10 or worse on Great Schools.
Located in the central part of the state, about an hour southwest of Morgantown, Clarksburg has its moments of charm as well. Check out the Quality Hill Historic District and Clarksburg History Museum to see what we mean.
Like whitewater rafting? Oak Hill provides a good base of operations. The nearby New River draws visitors from all over the world. Even if rafts and kayaks aren’t your thing, there’s plenty of hiking in the New River Gorge National Park.
So Oak Hill draws its share of visitors seeking an outdoor adventure. Presumably few of them have chosen to move permanently. Why not? Well, it’s tough to make a living in town for anyone who isn’t a rafting guide.
The unemployment rate sits at 11.6%, while the poverty rate runs to 20.9%. Meanwhile, the median income hovers at $39,296. Housing, diversity, and schools prove dicey as well.
With 30,021 people, Parkersburg represents an important population center in a largely rural region. As such, it has its share of cultural draws. This includes the Oil & Gas Museum and the Sumnerite African-American History Museum. And let’s not forget about the Downtown Throwdown, a festival focused on BBQ and beer. What else could you want?
Well, good-paying jobs for one thing. Unfortunately, there aren’t many of those in town. Instead, the area sports an unemployment rate of 7.3% and a median income of $35,778. Those factors contribute to a poverty rate around 25%.
Located in the southern part of the state, near the Virginia border, Princeton has its charms. The town bills itself as “Jewel of the South,” with an upgraded Mercer Street Grassroots District and several museums, such as the Princeton Railroad Museum.
Still, the local economy holds the town back, with a median income of $42,025 and a unemployment rate of 8.8%. This leaves nearly 1 in 4 residents below the poverty line. The community is also deficient in diversity, housing, and education. None of the local schools earn a rating higher than 6/10 from Great Schools.
How we determined the worst places to live in West Virginia for 2021
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 26 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 26 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 West Virginia — Grafton. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in West 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 West Virginia
If you’re looking at areas in West 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, Grafton ranks as the worst city to live in West Virginia for 2021.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in West Virginia:
- Bridgeport (Pop. 8,556)
- Vienna (Pop. 10,348)
- Hurricane (Pop. 6,482)
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Where Are The Worst Places To Live In West Virginia?