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20 Worst Places to Live in North Carolina (Updated 2023)


Deciding what makes a good place to live and what makes a bad place to live is more than just a matter of opinion. Decent schools, plentiful job opportunities, low crime rates, low poverty rates, high incomes, short working commutes, and a booming property market: all of these variables can be assessed on the basis of cold, hard facts.

So, if you're considering heading to North Carolina, you'll find plenty of places that score highly across the board. Unfortunately, you'll also find no shortage of places that don't, and the worst places to live in North Carolina are truly places you need to avoid. 

Before you decide on where to settle, be sure to check out our round of the 20 worst places to live in North Carolina. The top 5 worst places to live in NC will likely shake your faith in humanity a little. We're exaggerating, of course, but the worst cities to live in North Carolina, are truly a problem.

Our Methodology

We think transparency is important when examining the worst places to live in North Carolina. We want our readers to understand how we picked each city and what makes the 5 worst places to live in NC truly troubling. Remember: we personally have nothing against these cities ourselves. But we did a lot of research that confirmed the validity of our claims. We typically:

  1. Use listicle sites to find cities that people are talking about
  2. Research official sites to find statistics and information about each city 
  3. Rate them based on crime, affordability, walkability, schools, and much more 
  4. Arrange the data properly and provide context for each city's selection 
  5. Update our list of the worst cities to live in North Carolina every year

Worst Places to Live in North Carolina 

As you learn more about the worst cities to live in North Carolina, we'll highlight all the different factors that make each area so problematic. We'll showcase why you need to avoid the 5 worst places to live in NC, including economic, safety, and walkability factors. We personally don't hate these towns, and there are probably great people who live there. But you might not want to be one of them.

20. Kinston


According to Only in Your State, Kinston is a city that accounts for a far higher percentage of North Carolina crimes than any one city has a right to deal with, as Neighborhood Scout claims it’s safer than just 1% of all American neighborhoods. Yikes.

Move to this less-than-inviting city, and your chance of being the victim of a property crime skyrockets to 1 in 15.58. The violent crime rate isn't much better, with 226 aggravated assaults, robberies, murders, and manslaughters reported in 2018 alone.

Even worse, the unemployment rate is high (6.9%), the median income is low ($33,280), and the walkability is mediocre. There are some good schools here, no doubt, but it’s still not worth exposing your children to so much crime.

19. Laurinburg


According to Zippia, Laurinburg is one of the very worst places in North Carolina to get a job. With an employment rate of 8.9% and a median salary of $35,776, it's easy to understand their reasoning. Even worse, the median home price is fairly high at $119,200.

Unfortunately, Laurinburg's problems don't end there. With a crime rate that's through the roof, spiraling poverty, and almost a complete absence of things to see and do, it's a deserving entry to our list. Are there any benefits to living here? Well, a few of the schools are nice

In fact, some have scored as high as 8 out of 10 and help students prepare for college. The city is also somewhat walkable. But would you want to walk around a city with so much crime? We assume not.

18. Pineville


Travel a little south of Charlotte, and you'll land on Pineville, a small suburb that shares none of the bigger city's charms. Crime is high and getting higher by the year, unemployment is grim, and the standard of living is generally low.

The median income is decent at $53,199, though the median home price is a ludicrous $365,100. The cost of living is also higher than average, and the comfort isn’t all that great either. It’s somewhat walkable as well, which is nice if you live downtown.

It's not the worst place to live in North Carolina by any means, but it's got a long way to go if it wants to become one of the best. The best thing we can say is that it has a really nice elementary school; the rest is more than bad.

17. Dunn


If you've got a family, do yourself (and them) a favor and steer clear of Dunn. In general, North Carolina isn't known for having the most generous student funding program. The public schools might be okay, but the city itself struggles in other ways. 

According to The Progressive Pulse, the state ranks 46th in per-pupil funding (more than $4,400 below the national average) and next to last in the nation when it comes to its funding effort.

But even by the standards of the state, Dunn is doing a lousy job of investing in its future. To add misery to misery, its crime rate is 114% higher than the North Carolina average. It’s safer than roughly 0% of the nation, which makes it one of the worst places to live in North Carolina.

A worrying percentage of its population is living below the poverty line. The median income of $37,409 isn’t so high, and the median home price of $197,600 is more than most can afford. Run and don’t walk away from this city.

16. Goldsboro


Just because Goldsboro isn’t one of the 5 worst places to live in NC doesn’t mean it’s great. Some might even find it fun at first. It's got a good selection of bars, a healthy amount of restaurants, and plenty of things to see, do, and experience. Sounds like a fun place, right?

Wrong. Unless your idea of fun runs to living in one of the worst cities for property crime in North Carolina, you're unlikely to have a great time here. It’s safer than just 2% of all American cities and has 317 violent and 1,484 property crimes a year: pretty staggering. 

Violent crime isn't quite so bad, but the city still manages to rank as the 16th worst in the state for murders, rapes, and assaults. It’s also pretty unwalkable, and even a pretty decent school system can’t save this city.

15. Albemarle


Yes, Albemarle is one of the worst cities to live in North Carolina, but there are worse places to live than Albemarle. After all, there are places where people are earning less than the $43,231 most Albemarle residents are making. Its 81.1 cost of living index and 4.1% unemployment rate are also decent.

Furthermore, there are places where the thought of a crime rate that gives you a 1 in 18.1 chance of being robbed and a 1 in 109 chance of being attacked, raped, or murdered sounds positively idyllic. Some cities on this list are even more dangerous than Albemarle, which is safer than just 2% of the country

The problem is that no one wants to live in those places. And judging by its shrinking population, not many people want to live in Albemarle either. Just because it isn’t as bad as those places, with a reasonable walkability score and some good schools, doesn’t mean it’s worth tolerating.

14. Roanoke Rapids

Roanoke Rapids

Looking for a job? Then, don't waste your time searching in Roanoke Rapids, a city that currently boasts one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. Expect a nearly 7% unemployment rate, a $43,704 median income, and a cost of living well below the state average. 

It's not always been that way - rewind a few decades, and the town's textile industry was booming. These days, it's crumbling, robbing the city of jobs and making the prospect of job growth almost laughable. As a result, most households are struggling to make ends meet. 

Expect 114 violent and 552 property crimes every year (safer than just 4% of the country). Look forward to plenty of traffic and only mediocre walkability. Anticipate plenty of middling schools that won’t help your child prepare for college. Why would you want to live here?

13. Henderson


If affordability is your main priority, you might want to cast your sights in the direction of Henderson, a medium-sized city of 15,084 residents, where $141,800 will get you a decently sized family house. Don’t expect to make much money ($36,147), and do expect a high unemployment rate of 7.6%.

If, on the other hand, your priorities run more towards keeping you and your family safe, you might want to give it a miss. Move here, and you stand a 1 in 18.1 chance of being the victim of a property crime. There are 246 violent and 639 property crimes here every year. 

Your chance of being the victim of a violent crime is a little lower, but not by enough to shout about. Is it at least walkable? With a 66 out of 100 score, yes, but only barely. Are the schools good? The college prep and charter facilities are strong. But the public schools are a mess.

12. Selma


Selma might be many things, but desirable, it most certainly isn't. The median home price has skyrocketed to $245,100, which might seem great at first. However, the median income is just $25,421 a year: who can afford to buy a house here?

Then, there's the crime rate to consider. Though it’s safer than 9% of the country (which is a little better than some of the cities mentioned here), it’s still not great. Even if some of the career schools are good here, the public schools are generally not fantastic.

Public transportation is practically non-existent, though the city does have a stronger-than-expected 68 walkability score. Unfortunately, there's precious little sense of community. All in all, it's not exactly the kind of place that dreams are made of.

11. Roxboro


Roxboro doesn't have a whole lot going for it these days. Not only is its crime rate way higher than the state average, but its unemployment and poverty rates are also soaring. True, it only has 93 violent and 278 property crimes every year. Those numbers are inordinately high for such a tiny town.

The cost of living might seem low at first, but is far too high for such a small town. The pathetic median income of $33,883 makes it hard to afford the $169,300 homes in the area. Though it’s a fairly cozy and comfortable place climate-wise, it’s still not a great place to live. 

Are there any plusses? Well, it’s somewhat walkable at 65 out of 100. Frankly, for such a small town, that’s not a great score. There are a few decent schools here, though most are pretty bad. Please don’t move here.

10. Williamston


If you've ever heard of the Western theme park Deadwood, you might have thought it's worth a visit. It may well be a lot of fun for your family. However, its hometown of Williamston is one of the worst places to live in North Carolina. Frankly, Williamston is a town in need of some serious TLC.

With just 5,221 residents to its name, it would be tempting to think it lives up to its motto of "easy living with hometown values." It doesn't. It does, however, live up to its reputation as one of the most dangerous places to live in North Carolina.

Sure, the 69 violent and 272 property crimes don't seem like much on paper. But just think about the tiny size of this city to get a feel for the impact of these crimes. That's a rate of 13.52 and 53.29 out of 1,000 residents for violent and property crimes, respectively. That's not great. 

According to Area Vibes, the median household income is 37% lower than the national average, and the unemployment rate is 73% higher than the national average. The schools are also putrid, with the best being 4 out of 10.

9. Reidsville


Reidsville's main problem is its crime rate. For the record, 124 violent and 547 property crimes were reported last year, giving its 14,463 residents a worryingly high chance of landing up the victim of an assault, a rape, or a murder.

The property crime rate is even more worrying, with residents standing a 1 in 15.6 chance of having their homes broken into, their cars stolen, or their personal belongings suddenly going AWOL. The 5.4% unemployment rate, median income of $34,221, and median home prices of $149,600 aren't great

It is little wonder that most homeowners struggle to stay in the area. There are a few good schools here, and the city is somewhat walkable, but you're best off staying where you are right now.

8. Andrews


If you want to live in the kind of place where career opportunities abound, avoid Andrews. It's one of the worst cities to live in North Carolina for a reason. First of all, its crime rate makes it safer than just 3% of the neighborhoods in America.

Even worse, 4.8% of the 1,937 population is unemployed, and even those households with at least one working member are only earning a tiny income of $34,063. With a median home price of $215,100, it's simply unlivable, even if it's a fairly comfortable city by climate. 

Add to that a poverty rate of 38.3% and a complete absence of things to do, and it's easy to understand why its population is shrinking on a yearly basis. Its schools? Pretty bad!

7. Monroe


In the interests of balance, it's worth pointing out that Monroe isn't all bad. In fact, it's got several good points, including a not-entirely-terrible median income of $58,189. While that's still below the national average, we've already seen plenty of places with sub-$ $30,000 incomes. 

So, while that's not worth getting into a tizzy over, there are problems here. 

So, what exactly is the problem? It's got a crime rate that gives its residents a 1 in 105 chance of being murdered, raped, or attacked. Expect 292 violent and 1,296 property crimes here every year. We'll take our chances and stay well away.

What are the walkability and bikeability scores? Not good: 23 and 30, respectively. That's out of 100, for reference. Though this city has a couple of really great schools, we just can't recommend this as a place to raise your family.

6. Garland


If small-town living conjures up images of friendly neighbors, welcoming communities, and good old-fashioned values, then you're going to be disappointed with Garland. With just over 1,000 residents to its name, it's certainly small. Home prices are also below $100,000, which is surely tempting.

But as for charming... forget it. According to Home Snacks, Garland ranks as one of the very worst small towns in North Carolina. Why? Its crime rate, for a start. Though it's safer than 22% of American cities, that's still a shockingly high crime rate for such a small city. What about its poverty rate? Well, it doesn't take a genius to work out that a figure of 53.6% is not good.

Not good at all. Neither is the fact that such a tiny city is considered car-dependent: how can that be possible? Poor layout and infrastructure. The schools don't even get a ranking on Great Schools, and we're not sure how to take that.

5. Lexington


Lexington is a town of 19,347 residents and a crime rate that's rapidly spiraling out of control. Residents have a 1 in 30.54 chance of being the victim of a property crime. That's just one reason why it's one of the 5 worst places to live in NC. 

Violent crime is also on the rise, as is unemployment and poverty. The median income is just $32,698, and the median home price is $230,200. Who could afford to live here? Not many, which is why so many homes are still vacant. 

The school system is underfunded, the amenities are somewhat limited, and there are no signs of things improving any time soon. Sound like fun to you? Not to us or you.

4. Whiteville


Road Snacks ranks Whiteville among the 10 most dangerous cities in North Carolina. And indeed, the crime figures are frightening. There are 50 violent crimes and 341 property crimes here a year, which in such a small city is wild to think.

The chance of something even worse happening isn't that much better, unfortunately. With unemployment becoming an increasing problem (6.1%), people are also struggling to make ends meet with a meager $32,222 median income and a home price of $154,100. 

Add to that a very poor showing for the schools, and Whiteville is the kind of place you have nightmares about visiting. It truly deserves its spot as one of the worst cities to live in North Carolina.

3. Gaston


There might be worse places to live in North Carolina than Gaston, but they're few and far between. What's so bad about it? For a start, there's the unemployment rate, which currently stands at a depressing 5.9%. With a median income of just $33,162, getting a job here is hardly worth it.

The median home value of $100,200 speaks volumes about the desirability of the town, as does the complete dearth of recreational, cultural, and entertainment opportunities. It's also a poorly designed city, with walkability and bikeability scores of just 23 and 27 out of 100. 

Surely there's something good about it? Well, there are a few nearby college-prep high schools in Roanoke Rapids with high scores. The public schools? Pretty tragic.

2. Wadesboro


Wadesboro is a town in crisis. Crime is growing yearly, with residents now standing at a 1 in 53 chance of being the victim of a violent crime. In 2023, the town reported 111 violent assaults, rapes, attacks, and murders and 303 total property crimes. 

It is not a huge number on first reading, but a massive one when you learn the town has only 5,079 residents in total. Unemployment and poverty are growing in line with the crime figures, with unemployment now standing at a dismal 5.9%. Median income? $26,878. Home price? $101,200.

Okay, so that’s pretty rough, we admit, but how are the schools? Nothing ranks over 5 out of 10, and most are far worse. It’s somewhat walkable at 54…so it’s got that going for it. In other words, little to nothing.

1. Yanceyville


Like the idea of living somewhere that Road Snacks ranks as one of the very worst places to live in North Carolina? Us neither. Yanceyville is a town in trouble. It's a town with just 2,848 residents but with more problems than a town ten times its size.

Unemployment is a whopping 5.1%, poverty is a tragic 47.9%, and your chance of finding a job that pays more than $23,962 is about as slim as finding someone willing to pay more than $144,000 for your house. It's also pathetically car-dependent with schools so bad your kids will lose intelligence. 

Factor in the fact that there's almost nothing to do here, and you're looking at a place that's really one of the worst cities to live in North Carolina. It's easily the top of the 5 worst places to live in NC and must be avoided.

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Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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