10 Worst Cities to Live in Virginia: Crime, Poverty, and Unemployment

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Virginia is a state known for its natural beauty, charming towns, and thriving economy. However, not all cities in Virginia are as favorable to live in. In this article, we will explore the 10 worst cities to live in Virginia based on factors such as crime rates, unemployment rates, poverty, and education. We have taken into account the opinions of Virginians themselves to compile this list. So, if you’re considering moving to Virginia, make sure to stay away from these 10 cities.

1. South Boston

Our tour of the worst places to live in Virginia begins with South Boston. With a population of nearly 8,000 people, this city located in Halifax County is struggling economically. Home values are among the worst in the state, and the unemployment rate is nearly seven percent. While South Boston may have a small-town feel and decent public schools, its crime rate is significantly higher than the state and national averages.

2. Richlands

Next on our list is Richlands, a small city of about 5,300 people located in the Appalachian region of Virginia. Richlands faces economic challenges, with over eight percent of its residents unemployed. The city also has some of the worst schools in Virginia, with limited funding and a high percentage of adults without a high school diploma. Additionally, Richlands has a high crime rate, making it an undesirable place to live.

3. Marion

Marion is a small city nestled in the Allegheny Mountains, with a population of around 5,700 people. While its unemployment rate is relatively lower than Richlands, Marion still struggles economically, with low home values and underfunded public schools. The city’s crime rate is 129 percent higher than the state average, making it less safe for its residents.

4. Roanoke

Moving on to Roanoke, a much larger city with a population of 100,000 people. Roanoke may attract outdoor enthusiasts with its proximity to the Appalachian Trail and its reputation as a top mountain biking destination. However, the city faces challenges such as a high unemployment rate, poverty, and a crime rate that is almost double the national average. If you’re considering moving to Roanoke for adventure, be aware of the safety concerns associated with the city.

5. Danville

Located on the border of North Carolina, Danville is home to over 41,000 people. Once a prosperous city known for its tobacco and textile mills, Danville has struggled since these industries shut down. The city’s economy only supports a median income of $37,000, with a high unemployment rate of nine percent. Crime rates in Danville are also above the state and national averages, making it an unfavorable place to live.

6. Emporia

Emporia, with a population of just over 5,400 people, is known for race cars and speeding tickets. It is considered the most notorious speed trap in Virginia due to its location at US-58 and I-95. Emporia is also one of the poorest and least populated cities in the state, with over 23 percent of its residents unemployed. The crime rate in Emporia is significantly higher than the state average, making it a risky place to live.

7. Galax

Galax, a small town of about 6,500 people, offers picturesque mountain scenery and a taste of old-time music. However, the town faces economic challenges, with one of the highest unemployment rates in Virginia. With a crime rate that is higher than the state average, Galax may not be the safest place to live, especially if you have valuable possessions.

8. Portsmouth

Portsmouth, a coastal city with a population of nearly 94,000 people, struggles with low income levels and dropping home values. The public school system in Portsmouth is among the lowest-rated in the area. The city also faces significant crime rates, ranking number one in both violent and property crime in Virginia. If you’re looking for entertainment, you may have to travel to neighboring cities, which can result in tunnel tolls and traffic congestion.

9. Petersburg

Located about 20 miles south of Richmond, Petersburg is known for its rich history but faces a tanking economy. With a high unemployment rate of nearly 12 percent, Petersburg has one of the highest rates in the state. The city’s schools are dismal, and crime rates are through the roof, making it one of the least desirable places to live in Virginia.

10. Newport News

Finally, Newport News tops our list as the worst place to live in Virginia. With a population of approximately 180,000 people, Newport News has a high number of violent crimes per person and ranks ninth in overall violent crime in the state. The city is known for its gangs, drugs, and assaults. Additionally, the schools are average but poorly funded, and the roads and traffic are a common complaint among residents.


While Virginia is generally a beautiful and prosperous state, there are certain cities that should be avoided due to high crime rates, poverty, and unemployment. South Boston, Richlands, Marion, Roanoke, Danville, Emporia, Galax, Portsmouth, Petersburg, and Newport News are the 10 worst cities to live in Virginia. If you’re looking for a safe and thriving city in Virginia, it is best to consider other options outside of these areas.

Remember, it’s important to do thorough research before making a decision on where to move. Consider factors such as employment opportunities, education, safety, and overall quality of life. Virginia has many wonderful cities and towns to choose from, so take the time to find the one that suits your needs and preferences.

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