Most Americans have never been to West Virginia. However, as the people who live there know, West Virginia is an awesome state.
But is it all roses? Definitely not. Just like any other state, West Virginia has its trouble spots. This article aims to determine, using science, the absolute worst small towns to live in the Mountain State. Don’t shoot the messenger, this is all using data.
After analyzing more than 104 of West Virginia’s smallest cities, we came up with this list as the 10 worst small towns in West Virginia where you’d never want to live:
- Meadow Bridge
- Gauley Bridge
Of course, many of these cities would rank highly if they were in other states, since West Virginia has its stuff figured out.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers, or scroll to the bottom to see how your town ranked.
How do you decide if a place is lousy or not?
In order to rank the worst small towns to live in West Virginia, we had to determine what criteria people like or dislike about a place. It isn’t a stretch to assume that people like low crime, solid education, things to do and a stable economy.
So we scraped the internet for those criteria, and it spit out the answer. Like magic.
How we crunched the numbers
We threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using FBI crime data, the Census’s 2010-2014 American Community Survey, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is the criteria we used:
- Population Density (The lower the worse)
- Highest Unemployment Rates
- Low housing costs (meaning there’s no demand)
- Adjusted Median Income (Median income adjusted for the cost of living)
- Education (Number of high school dropouts)
- High Crime
We looked at cities with populations between 100 and 1,000 people, of which, there were a lot – 104 to be exact.
Additional note: We get the crime numbers from the FBI, which gets its crime numbers from the cities themselves. Dropout numbers are based on the adult population, not just the current graduation rates of teenagers.
Population: 428Median Income: $21,667
Median Home Price: $34,300
We begin our tour of small West Virginia towns you wouldn’t want to live in with Bradshaw, a teeny town along highway 80, way, way (way) down near the Virginia panhandle. What makes this place so crummy?
First off, the unemployment rate down here is above 10%, and since there aren’t any jobs for an hour in any direction, if you lived here, you might be in the same predicament. Crime is the 5th worst of any small town in Virginia, and homes cost an average of $34,000 each.
Population: 264Median Income: $15,227
Median Home Price: $18,200
Not too far away from Bradshaw as the crow flies is the little speck of a place, Davy. This is the most dangerous small town in West Virginia, where you’d have a 1 in 26 chance of being a victim for every year you spend here.
That might be a reason homes sell for around $18,000 each, which might actually be the lowest median home price we’ve ever seen.
Population: 346Median Income: $17,386
Median Home Price: $27,500
Is it a surprise that so far, all of these places are in the same general area, close to the Virginia state line, west of I-77?
Here in Keystone, crime is also just about as bad as you’ll see in West Virginia. Homes are very cheap, and families bring in about $17,000 a year annually, which is far below the poverty level. Odds are if you lived here, you’d be broke, too.
Population: 237Median Income: $23,036
Median Home Price: $18,500
Welcome to Rhodell, West Virginia, where 65% of the population is a high school dropout. If you’re into stimulating conversations with some real go-getters, this certainly wouldn’t be a place you’d enjoy.
If you have $18,500 to spend on a home, and didn’t mind living in a boring place with high crime, then there are certainly some home owners in Rhodell who would welcome you with open arms.
To get there, take the exit for Ghent on I-77 and follow the windy road for about an hour.
Population: 389Median Income: $19,904
Median Home Price: $28,100
Not too far east of Parkersburg along Route 50 is little Cairo. You can imagine that many small, isolated West Virginia towns have a problem with chronic unemployment and poverty. In Cairo, 1 in 10 residents is out of work (that’s 39 people to be exact).
If you lived here, your choices for work would be:
- Fred’s Diner
- Marshall’s Hardware
- The Rail Trail Pantry
- Or The Filling Station
What? Those places don’t sound appealing?
6. Meadow Bridge
Population: 365Median Income: $23,088
Median Home Price: $53,500
Meadow Bridge ain’t a barrel full of laughs, either. This teeny place just east from the junction of I-77 and I-64 is pretty isolated, but at least they have a Drive-In Theater. However, if you lived here, you’d most likely have to save up for food and gas, since you’d probably live in poverty.
One perk – you’d be close to the toll roads, where many a West Virginian has made quite a bit of pocket money asking tourists for ‘toll money’ to get home.
Population: 937Median Income: $17,163
Median Home Price: $34,800
Hey now there’s a real boom town! At least there’s lots of people around, so you’d have plenty of people with which to hatch a plan to skidaddle outta’ there if you made this your home.
War residents most likely wage a daily battle just to keep their heads above water. Sure, families here are broke, but crime is the 6th worst of any place we measured.
War is somewhere along a windy mountain road between the booming towns of Bradshaw (Pop. 337) and Cucumber (Pop. 94).
Population: 329Median Income: $29,063
Median Home Price: $48,900
Just south of Charleston along the Kanawha is Handley. This is the 5th least densely populated place in WV, where there ain’t nothin’ in town except Hutch’s Wrecking Yard.
But, Charleston is only a half hour away, so if you managed to pay for gas each way, you’d at least have access to a decent job.
Population: 323Median Income: $15,795
Median Home Price: $65,000
Judging by the photos we were able to find of Iaeger, it looks like this place is becoming a ghost town fairly quickly. If you checked back in a month, the population might just be under 300 souls.
Incomes here are below even what the government considers extreme poverty, and more than half the community is a dropout. The only reason we could conceive of anyone wanting to move here is to hide from the law.
10. Gauley Bridge
Population: 699Median Income: $40,272
Median Home Price: $48,600
We finish our tour of small West Virginia towns that you’d never want to live in with Gauley Bridge, which is also downriver from Charleston. While incomes are actually pretty darn good for West Virginia standards, 1 in 10 folks are out of work, and home prices indicate there’s no demand to live here.
The upside? Gino’s Pizza & Spaghetti House and Subway are in town. So you certainly wouldn’t starve.
There You Have It – The Worst Small Towns In West Virginia
If you’re analyzing teeny places in the Mountain State with the worst economic situations, where there’s high crime and there’s not a lot to do, this is an accurate list.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best small towns to live in West Virginia, according to science.
Best: North Hills
2nd Best: Hedgesville
3rd Best: Mitchell Heights
For more West Virginia reading, check out:
- These Are The 10 Best Places To Live In West Virginia According To Science
- These Are The 10 Drunkest Cities In West Virginia
- These Are The 10 Most Dangerous Cities In West Virginia
Ranking Of The 100 Worst Small Towns In West Virginia
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