The 10 Worst Raleigh Suburbs For 2021

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

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Editor’s Note: This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out we updated this article for 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the worst suburbs around Raleigh.

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 Apex certainly tries.

Of course, not all suburbs of Raleigh are created equally, which is precisely why we set out to find the best ones..

We examined the 27 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 2021:

  1. Selma
  2. Smithfield
  3. Butner
  4. Franklinton
  5. Coats
  6. Zebulon
  7. Four Oaks
  8. Wilson's Mills
  9. Louisburg
  10. Youngsville

What's the worst suburb of Raleigh? Selma ranks as the worst suburb of Raleigh for 2021 based on the most recent Census and FBI data.

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:

The 10 Worst Raleigh Suburbs To Live For 2021

Selma, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 6,746
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Income: $27,676 (lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.2% (5th highest)
Median Home Value: $105,200 (3rd lowest)
More on Selma:  Data | Photos

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 worst in the Raleigh area, and to make matters worse, the city ranks 3rd 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.

Smithfield, NC

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 12,400
Rank Last Year: 4 (Up 2)
Median Income: $36,335 (3rd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 5.6% (8th highest)
Median Home Value: $142,200 (7th lowest)
More on Smithfield:  Data | Photos

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 3rd lowest in the metro area, where families bring in about $36,335 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.

Butner, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 7,727
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 2)
Median Income: $45,366 (6th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 8.5% (3rd highest)
Median Home Value: $136,700 (6th lowest)
More on Butner:  Data | Photos

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.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 2,260
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 2)
Median Income: $39,018 (4th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 10.0% (2nd highest)
Median Home Value: $99,900 (2nd lowest)
More on Franklinton:  Data

If you live in Franklinton, most likely you struggle to make ends meet every month. It ranks as the 4th 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 27 cities for this study.

Franklinton is about 21.5 miles to downtown.

Coats, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 2,418
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
Median Income: $35,352 (2nd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.1% (7th highest)
Median Home Value: $97,600 (lowest)
More on Coats:  Data | Photos

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

All snarkiness aside, Coats has the lowest home values in the metro Raleigh area, where the median price is $97,600. To put that into perspective, in Apex, the median income is $119,615, which is the best in the area.

Coats has an unemployment rate of 6.12% which ranks 7th worst.

Zebulon, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,404
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 4)
Median Income: $46,849 (8th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 5.1% (9th highest)
Median Home Value: $130,100 (5th lowest)
More on Zebulon:  Data | Photos

Zebulon has 5,404 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 14.945550131430716%.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 2,144
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 1)
Median Income: $45,714 (7th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 3.8% (16th highest)
Median Home Value: $151,900 (8th lowest)
More on Four Oaks:  Data

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

It's the place with the 16th most out of work residents in the Raleigh metro area (3.78%).

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 2,613
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 6)
Median Income: $55,114 (11th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 2.2% (24th highest)
Median Home Value: $129,400 (4th lowest)
More on Wilson's Mills:  Data

Wilson's Mills is a city about 23.0 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. Wilson's Mills has the 3rd most uninsured people, 11th worst incomes, and has the 24th highest unemployment rate (2.15%) in the entire Raleigh metro area.

Homes only cost $129,400 for a reason. That's cheap for Raleigh standards.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 3,531
Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 1)
Median Income: $41,250 (5th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 11.5% (highest)
Median Home Value: $161,100 (10th lowest)
More on Louisburg:  Data

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

About 11.52% of residents are out of work.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 2,003
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 1)
Median Income: $50,956 (10th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.3% (6th highest)
Median Home Value: $242,600 (18th lowest)
More on Youngsville:  Data

Rounding out the ten worst Raleigh suburbs to call home is Youngsville.

Located 16.2 miles outside the city, Youngsvilles is a real pit when you look at the data. Its residents have the 6th highest unemployment rate (6.33%), and poverty is far above the area average.

Determining The Worst Suburbs Around Raleigh 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 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 from 2015-2019, 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 2,000 people. This left us with a grand total of 27 suburbs to evaluate around Raleigh.

We ranked each place with scores from 1 to 27 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. You can download the data here.

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.

The areas around Raleigh where the dream is more of a nightmare for 2021

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. Apex takes the cake as the best place to live around Raleigh.

  • Apex
  • Cary
  • Holly Springs

For more North Carolina reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Worst Raleigh Suburbs

Rank City Population Median Income Median Home Values
1 Selma 6,746 $27,676 $105,200
2 Smithfield 12,400 $36,335 $142,200
3 Butner 7,727 $45,366 $136,700
4 Franklinton 2,260 $39,018 $99,900
5 Coats 2,418 $35,352 $97,600
6 Zebulon 5,404 $46,849 $130,100
7 Four Oaks 2,144 $45,714 $151,900
8 Wilson's Mills 2,613 $55,114 $129,400
9 Louisburg 3,531 $41,250 $161,100
10 Youngsville 2,003 $50,956 $242,600
11 Angier 5,893 $48,306 $157,800
12 Archer Lodge 4,902 $66,103 $183,000
13 Durham 269,702 $58,905 $224,100
14 Wendell 7,308 $59,236 $191,400
15 Clayton 21,681 $62,676 $192,900
16 Garner 29,462 $65,064 $190,000
17 Knightdale 16,001 $69,684 $196,600
18 Creedmoor 4,501 $78,330 $169,400
19 Carrboro 21,230 $58,702 $368,800
20 Fuquay-Varina 27,426 $79,000 $255,900
21 Rolesville 7,488 $119,615 $316,200
22 Chapel Hill 60,998 $73,614 $399,700
23 Wake Forest 42,111 $92,210 $297,300
24 Morrisville 26,280 $101,738 $331,800
25 Holly Springs 34,874 $112,029 $320,900
26 Cary 166,268 $104,669 $356,400
27 Apex 51,370 $111,435 $327,800

How Is Your Town In ?