10 Worst Places to Live in Virginia: High Crime, Low Income, and Poor Education

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Virginia is a state known for its beauty, wealth, and success. With its picturesque mountains, ski slopes, and beaches, it offers a lot for a tourist or vacationer. However, when it comes to choosing a place to settle down and plant roots, there are some cities in Virginia that should be avoided. In this article, we will explore the top 10 worst places to live in Virginia based on various factors such as crime rates, unemployment rates, poverty, and education. We have also taken into account the opinions of Virginians themselves to ensure a comprehensive list. So, let’s dive into the rankings and find out which cities made the cut.

1. South Boston

Our tour of the worst places to live in Virginia begins with South Boston, a city located in Halifax County. Despite its small-town feel and decent public schools, South Boston struggles economically. The city’s economy is in decline, and residents are having a hard time making ends meet. Home values are among the lowest in the state, and the unemployment rate is close to 7%. Additionally, South Boston has a high crime rate, with residents facing a 1 in 24 chance of being a victim of a crime. Drug abuse is also a major problem in this city.

2. Richlands

Next on our list is Richlands, a small city with a population of approximately 5,300 people. Located in a remote area along Route 460, Richlands faces economic struggles with over 8% of residents unemployed. Home values are also low, making it difficult to attract new residents. The city’s public schools are among the worst in the state, and a significant percentage of adults living here never earned a high school diploma. Crime is another factor that makes Richlands an undesirable place to live, with an overall crime rate 129% higher than Virginia’s average.

3. Marion

Marion, a small city nestled in the Allegheny Mountains, takes the third spot on our list. With a slightly lower unemployment rate than Richlands, Marion still faces poverty and a struggling economy. The city has the fifth-worst home values in the state and severely underfunded public schools. Crime is a significant concern, with an overall crime rate 129% higher than the state average. Residents of Marion have a 1 in 22 chance of being a victim of a crime, which is unsettling for a small population.

4. Roanoke

Moving on, we come to Roanoke, a larger city with a population of approximately 100,000 people. Though it offers outdoor enthusiasts opportunities for mountain biking and proximity to the Appalachian Trail, Roanoke has its fair share of problems. The city suffers from a flat economy, high crime rates, and a subpar school system. With an unemployment rate of over 6% and about 20% of the population living below the poverty line, Roanoke faces significant socioeconomic challenges. The crime rate is almost double the national average, meaning residents have a 1 in 21 chance of being a victim of a crime.

5. Danville

Danville, a city with over 41,000 residents, has a difficult history due to the closure of its tobacco and textile mills. The local economy struggles to support its population, with a median income of just over $37,000 and a high unemployment rate of 9%. Crime is also a significant concern in Danville, with a crime rate well above the state and national averages. Residents have a 1 in 20 chance of being a victim of a crime. However, the city is making efforts to revitalize its downtown area and attract new businesses.

6. Emporia

Emporia, a small city with a population of just over 5,400 people, is known for being a speed trap and its association with race cars. However, it also faces severe socioeconomic issues. More than 23% of residents are unemployed, and the average income for those with jobs is under $27,000 per year. Crime is rampant in Emporia, with a crime rate almost double the state average. Residents have a 1 in 22 chance of being a victim of a crime, making it a concerning place to live.

7. Galax

Galax is a small town of around 6,500 people located in the Appalachian region of Virginia. With low home values and a high unemployment rate of 12%, Galax faces economic challenges. The crime rate is relatively low, but residents still have a 1 in 25 chance of being victims of crimes such as theft and drug-related offenses. The town’s remote location means limited opportunities for entertainment, and the weather can be unfavorable for much of the year. However, Galax is known for its award-winning barbecue at the Galax Smokehouse.

8. Portsmouth

Portsmouth is a coastal city with almost 94,000 residents. While it offers historical attractions and natural beauty, it also faces numerous problems. The average income for residents is around $23,000 per year, and the public school system is poorly funded. Home values are dropping, and residents often have to travel to neighboring cities for entertainment. Moreover, Portsmouth holds the unfortunate title of being the most dangerous city in Virginia, with an overall crime rate three times higher than the state average.

9. Petersburg

Located just 20 miles south of Richmond, Petersburg is a city with a population of about 31,000 people. It has a rich history, including being the site of a famous Civil War battle, but it struggles in the present. The city has the third-worst unemployment rate in the state, with nearly 12% of the population out of work. The school system is subpar, and the crime rate is alarming, making it a city plagued by socioeconomic issues.

10. Newport News

Topping our list as the worst place to live in Virginia is Newport News. With a population of approximately 180,000 people, it is a big military town and home to a state war museum. However, Newport News also has one of the highest crime rates in the state. Residents have a 1 in 167 chance of being a victim of a violent crime, and the overall crime rate is three times higher than the state average. In addition, the city struggles with poorly funded schools, inadequate road maintenance, and limited entertainment options.


While Virginia has many wonderful cities to choose from, it’s important to be aware of the worst places to live and their specific challenges. High crime rates, low-income levels, and poor education systems are among the factors that make these cities undesirable for residents. If you’re considering a move to Virginia, it’s essential to research and carefully consider the cities on this list and determine the best fit for your needs and lifestyle. Remember, Virginia has something for everyone, and there are plenty of safe, prosperous, and vibrant communities to explore.

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