These Are The 10 Worst Raleigh Suburbs For 2018


We used science and data to determine which Raleigh suburbs are the real pits.

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Not everyone is cut out for city life. Some people would prefer to live in the cities and towns that surround Raleigh.

So the question arises, do the suburbs maintain a semblance of the larger-than-life appeal of their more famous neighbor?

Today, we’ll use science and data to determine which Raleigh ‘burbs need a little tender loving care – the sore thumbs of the Raleigh area if you will. Realistically, you can’t expect all the suburbs to live up to Raleigh proper, although Cary certainly tries.

Of course, not all suburbs of Raleigh are created equally, which is precisely why we set out to find the best ones. So without further ado…

We examined the 18 biggest suburbs of Raleigh to find out the worst places to live. And while you won’t necessarily find them on the worst places to live in North Carolina lists, these ten places are a little too far downwind of Raleigh in terms of quality of life.

Here are the 10 worst suburbs around Raleigh for 2018:

  1. Selma (Photos)
  2. Smithfield (Photos)
  3. Butner (Photos)
  4. Angier (Photos)
  5. Durham (Photos)
  6. Clayton (Photos)
  7. Wendell
  8. Garner (Photos)
  9. Knightdale (Photos)
  10. Fuquay-Varina (Photos)

Read on to see how we determined the places around Raleigh that need a pick-me-up. And remember, don’t blame the messenger.

Or, if you’re thinking of moving to elsewhere in North Carolina check out the best places in North Carolina overall or the worst.

And remember, there are some good places to live around Raleigh too.

Editor’s Note: If you see a slight difference between the worst in state rankings and this suburb ranking, it’s because of the methodology. We needed a way to include more places, so we eliminated crime and commute times as criteria for this analysis.

For more North Carolina reading, check out:

Determining The Worst Suburbs Around Raleigh for 2018

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 threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using the most recent American Community Survey data, this is the criteria we used:

  • High unemployment rate
  • Low median household incomes
  • Low population density (no things to do)
  • Low home values
  • A lot of high school drop outs
  • High poverty
  • High rate of uninsured families

FYI: We defined a suburb as being within 30 miles of Raleigh.

Additionally, we limited the analysis to places that have over 5,000 people. This left us with a grand total of 18 suburbs to evaluate around Raleigh.

We ranked each place with scores from 1 to 18 in each category, where 1 was the “worst”.

Next, we averaged the rankings for each place to create a quality of life index.

And finally, we crowned the city with the worst quality of life index the “Worst Suburb near Raleigh.” We’re lookin’ at you, Selma.

Read on below to learn more about what it’s like to live in the worst of the worst. Or skip to the end to see the list of all the suburbs ranked from worst to best.

1. Selma

Selma, North Carolina

Population: 6,325
Unemployment Rate: 12.1%
Median Home Price: $85,400
Median Income: $27,982
More on Selma: Data | Jobs

We’ll get the ball rolling with Selma, the absolute worst place to live around Raleigh according to the data.

And in the world of worst rankings, Selma beat the competition pretty handily thanks to scoring in the bottom 15% in three major categories. Income is the 1st worst in the Raleigh area, and to make matters worse, the city ranks 1st worst when it comes to home values.

But hey, at least it’s cheap to live there. But there’s a reason for that… it’s Selma.

You won’t feel bad about not having a great income for the area, there aren’t a bunch of places to spend your money anyway.

2. Smithfield

Smithfield, North Carolina

Source: Public domain

Population: 11,746
Unemployment Rate: 8.8%
Median Home Price: $123,900
Median Income: $33,415
More on Smithfield: Data | Jobs

Welcome to Smithfield. Home to KMart, Big Lots, and a lot of gas stations.

This city is 26.6 miles to Raleigh. Income levels here are the 2nd lowest in the metro area, where families bring in about $33,415 a year, which doesn’t go a long ways even on a shoestring budget.

But on the bright side, there are a lot of fast food joints in the area.

3. Butner

Butner, North Carolina

Population: 7,692
Unemployment Rate: 7.2%
Median Home Price: $127,200
Median Income: $46,642
More on Butner: Data | Jobs

Back up the highway we go for the third worst Raleigh suburb you can live in. You might have expected to see Butner on here. While the cost of living is low, your entertainment and work options are limited. And that’s an understatement.

In terms of numbers, it’s in the worst 15% for insurance, and the adult high school drop out rate is poor compared to other Raleigh suburbs.

But at least there are nice parks to bring the kids during the day.

4. Angier

Angier, North Carolina

Population: 5,079
Unemployment Rate: 11.1%
Median Home Price: $151,800
Median Income: $43,354
More on Angier: Data | Jobs

If you live in Angier, most likely you struggle to make ends meet every month. It ranks as the 3rd lowest Raleigh suburb when it comes to residents making money.

Not only that, but this is the 2nd worst unemployed suburb you can live in if you choose to live near Raleigh. Remember, we looked at 18 cities for this study.

Angier is about 23.0 miles to downtown.

5. Durham

Durham, North Carolina

Source: Public domain

Population: 251,761
Unemployment Rate: 6.5%
Median Home Price: $183,900
Median Income: $52,115
More on Durham: Data | Jobs

Durham has the distinction of being a Raleigh suburb. Which means that’s about all it has going for it.

All snarkiness aside, Durham has the 9th lowest home values in the metro Raleigh area, where the median price is $183,900. To put that into perspective, in Cary, the median income is $98,041, which is the best in the area.

Durham has an unemployment rate of 6.5% which ranks 8th worst.

6. Clayton

Clayton, North Carolina

Population: 18,553
Unemployment Rate: 7.6%
Median Home Price: $162,000
Median Income: $60,989
More on Clayton: Data | Jobs

Clayton has 18,553 residents that probably know it’s a pretty crummy place to live when you look at the data. (Or, if you’ve ever been there, you don’t need to look at the data.)

Incomes are towards the bottom and the poverty rate sits at 8.1%.

7. Wendell


Population: 6,298
Unemployment Rate: 3.1%
Median Home Price: $127,100
Median Income: $47,295
More on Wendell: Data | Jobs

Ah, Wendell. You rank as the 7th worst place to live around Raleigh.

It’s the place with the 18th most out of work residents in the Raleigh metro area (3.1%).

8. Garner

Garner, North Carolina

Population: 27,625
Unemployment Rate: 6.3%
Median Home Price: $164,800
Median Income: $59,812
More on Garner: Data | Jobs

Garner is a city about 9.4 miles from Raleigh, but Raleigh probably wishes it was further away. It ranks as the 8th worst burb for 2018.

You’d be hard pressed to find a worse place to live. Garner has the 10th most uninsured people, 8th worst incomes, and has the 9th highest unemployment rate (6.3%) in the entire Raleigh metro area.

Homes only cost $164,800 for a reason. That’s cheap for Raleigh standards.

9. Knightdale

Knightdale, North Carolina

Population: 13,787
Unemployment Rate: 5.9%
Median Home Price: $171,300
Median Income: $67,167
More on Knightdale: Data | Jobs

If you absolutely have to live near Raleigh, then Knightdale might be a place for you to consider as it’s only the 9th worst Raleigh suburb.

About 5.9% of residents are out of work.

10. Fuquay-Varina

Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina

Source: Public domain

Population: 22,722
Unemployment Rate: 7.5%
Median Home Price: $208,100
Median Income: $70,226
More on Fuquay-Varina: Data | Jobs

Rounding out the ten worst Raleigh suburbs to call home is Fuquay-Varina.

Located 18.1 miles outside the city, Fuquay-Varinas is a real pit when you look at the data. Its residents have the 6th highest unemployment rate (7.5%), and poverty is far above the area average.

The areas around Raleigh where the dream is more of a nightmare for 2018

Well there you have it — the worst of the ‘burbs surrounding Raleigh with Selma casting itself ahead of the pack.

As we mentioned earlier, the suburbs around Raleigh aren’t all bad. Cary takes the cake as the best place to live around Raleigh.

For more North Carolina reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Worst Raleigh Suburbs

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Median Home Price Median Income
1 Selma 6,325 12.1% $85,400 $27,982
2 Smithfield 11,746 8.8% $123,900 $33,415
3 Butner 7,692 7.2% $127,200 $46,642
4 Angier 5,079 11.1% $151,800 $43,354
5 Durham 251,761 6.5% $183,900 $52,115
6 Clayton 18,553 7.6% $162,000 $60,989
7 Wendell 6,298 3.1% $127,100 $47,295
8 Garner 27,625 6.3% $164,800 $59,812
9 Knightdale 13,787 5.9% $171,300 $67,167
10 Fuquay-Varina 22,722 7.5% $208,100 $70,226
11 Rolesville 5,583 10.3% $259,000 $91,000
12 Carrboro 20,867 3.4% $326,700 $53,513
13 Chapel Hill 59,005 5.4% $390,300 $65,373
14 Wake Forest 36,472 5.7% $270,300 $81,200
15 Morrisville 22,600 3.9% $291,400 $92,769
16 Holly Springs 30,126 4.0% $249,500 $98,041
17 Apex 43,893 4.7% $278,400 $95,283
18 Cary 155,822 4.0% $309,800 $94,617

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