North Dakota isn’t the kind of state that springs to mind when you think of high unemployment, rising poverty, and out-of-control crime. And nor should it. North Dakota is a state of unbridled beauty, of grasslands and farms, of long, winding roads. It’s where the simple life reigns supreme, and where big issues are someone else’s problem. But even North Dakota has its trouble spots. They might not be troubling in the way that St. Louis or Detroit are troubling, but compared to the rest of the state’s cities and towns, they’re in no way idyllic. After sifting through the data, we’ve pulled together the 20 worst places to live in North Dakota. Without further ado, here they are.
How does the thought of living somewhere with a 7% unemployment rate strike you? What about somewhere with a poverty rate of 13%? A place that most residents are earning just $51,447 and where the average property price is just $93,200? If none of that appeals, you might want to stay away from Walhalla.
According to Area Vibes, Rolla real estate prices are 51% lower than the North Dakota average. If there’s one thing that’s true more often than not, it’s that low property prices usually equal low desirability. That’s certainly the case here. Whether it’s the high unemployment, the low median incomes, or the scarcity of amenities that’s worse, it’s hard to tell. Either way, we’ll be staying away.
In 2016, Only In Your State ranked Bismarck as one of the ten most dangerous cities in North Dakota. It’s had four years to get its act together but unfortunately, there are very few signs of positive change. Not only is crime still through the roof, but the schools are also some of the worst-performing and underfunded in the state.
There are worse places to live in North Dakota than Cando. You might struggle to find many, but they definitely exist. But that’s probably scant consolation to the town’s residents, 5.5% of whom are unemployed and 7.4% of whom are living in poverty.
16. Watford City
While the crime rate in most cities across the US is on a downward trajectory, the crime rate in Watford City is doing the opposite. In the last decade, property crime has risen dramatically, with residents now standing a 1 in 65 chance of being the victim of a robbery.
Even if it was otherwise perfect, Fargo’s unemployment rate of 3.2% would get it a mention on our list. Unfortunately, the state of its job market isn’t the only thing letting the city down. According to Neighborhood Scout, your chance of being a victim of violent crime in Fargo is 1 in 216. Your chance of being the victim of a property crime is 1 in 3. We’ll take our chances and steer clear.
Dickinson is a mid-sized city of 22,882 residents. Most of those are probably perfectly happy with their town, and understandably so. Where we dealing with any other state in the US, the chances of Dickinson making our list would be slim to zero. But ultimately, we’re not dealing with Louisiana. We’re not dealing with Mississippi. We’re not even dealing with New Mexico. We’re dealing with North Dakota, a state where people get on with things in as nice a way as they can. So, even though Dickinson’s crime index, unemployment rate, school funding, and income levels wouldn’t be considered terrible on a nation-wide basis, they’re simply not good enough to meet North Dakota’s high standards…. nor avoid getting the city a shout out on our list.
13. New Rockford
New Rockford is the county seat of Eddy County. With a population that’s just tipping the 2000 mark, it’s not the biggest county seat in the world, but, hey, size isn’t everything. And in fairness, New Rockford isn’t all bad. The annual Central North Dakota Steam Thresher’s Reunion is by all accounts a hoot and the Opera House puts on some good shows. The poverty level of 11.8% is by no means appealing, but there’s worse around. The unemployment rate isn’t great, but neither is it terrible. The median income of just over $44,000 is low by national standards, but not low enough to get worked up over. The problem is, there’s precious little to do here. Unless you’re into trains and amateur dramatics in a big way, there’s really nothing to keep you entertained.
If you like having something to get out of bed for in the morning, you might want to steer clear of Casselton, where 1 in 59.5 people are unemployed. With so little to occupy their time, it’s maybe understandable that a growing element of the town is turning to crime. With the third-worst property crime stats in North Dakota, residents have a 1 in 30.6 chance of being the victim of a property crime. Your chance of staying safe from violent crime is a little better, but with residents standing a 1 in 212 chance of being attacked, raped, or murdered, you’ll find plenty of much safer places to spend your time.
11. Fort Totten
Low incomes and low property prices all too often go hand in hand. Fort Totten is no exception. The median income in this small community is way below the national average at just $23,273. The median home value, meanwhile, is a tiny $44,492. Why are the property prices so low, you might ask? The simple answer is that no one’s prepared to pay very much to live here. Considering most households are earning less than half the national average, it’s not surprising.
10. Shell Valley
Shell Valley is tiny. So tiny, only 1,300 people live here. Now, you might not expect a place with just over 1000 residents to be anything other than quiet, and you’d be right. If there’s anything happening in Shell Valley at all these days, it’s not being reported on. The only thing that is making the headlines is the lack of things… the lack of jobs (18.6% of the population are unemployed), the lack of money (33.9% of the town are living in poverty), and the lack of basic necessities (amenities are limited, to say the least). Unsurprisingly, there also seems a complete lack of hope in things getting better any time soon.
9. Grand Forks
In 2019, 24/7 Wall St. named Grand Forks the worst place to live in North Dakota. Understandably, a lot of the residents of the city didn’t take too kindly to their city’s nomination. For others, it was no great surprise. What’s so unappealing about the city? For a start, the unemployment rate. At 2.9%, it’s actually not at all bad by national standards. By North Dakota standards, however, it’s one of the highest. Then there’s the median income, which at $48,241 is one of the lowest in the state. One in five residents lives below the poverty line, more than at least 75% of US cities and the highest in the state. The violent crime rate of 315 per 100,000 people might not be high compared to many other US cities, but compared to the state average of 215 per 100,000 people, it’s really not great.
If the idea of living in a small town appeals, Belcourt might seem a good proposition. With only 2,270 residents to its name, it’s definitely small. But whereas other small towns might ooze charm, Belcourt is doing the opposite. An alarming 26.9 percent of the population are living below the poverty line. The unemployment rate of 7.5 percent is high by both state and national standards, while the appeal of living in a small community soon wears off when you realize there’s absolutely nothing to do here.
Mandan is one of the most dangerous cities in North Dakota. Last year, the city had the third-highest murder rate and the highest rate of rape cases in North Dakota. The property crime rate isn’t faring much better, with residents standing a 1 in 33.8 chance of having their car or their belongings stolen. When you add in the fact Mandan’s students receive some of the lowest levels of support in the state, it’s understandable why few people consider the city a desirable place to live.
Grafton is a small community of 4182 people. But while small towns are traditionally associated with safe streets, friendly neighbors, and quaint traditions, Grafton isn’t that kind of town. Not even slightly. Want the proof? Then just consider its median home value of $84,700, which paints quite the picture of just how little people are prepared to spend to live here. Then there’s the fact that its students are getting a rough deal compared to students in other parts of the state, with school spending per student the third-worst in North Dakota. If all that wasn’t enough to contend with, its unemployment rate of 4.1% is one of the highest in the state.
Wahpeton fares badly across the board. Its median income of $45,150 is one of the lowest in the state. Its crime rate is in the bottom 5%, and its unemployment rate isn’t doing much better at 5.1%. Its median home value, understandably enough, is way below both the state and national average at just $123,300. Even worse, over 16% of the population are living below the poverty line. Where it not for the fact its schools aren’t performing too badly, it would deserve a much higher place on our list.
4. Devils Lake
If you like the idea of keeping your personal belongings to yourself, think twice before heading to Devils Lake. The property crime rate in this slice of North Dakota is off the scale, with residents standing a 1 in 22 chance of having their car stolen or their home broken into. The bad news keeps coming. The median income just scrapes past $44,000, leaving households much poorer than those in neighboring cities. The median home value of $138,600 is just as low. On the plus side, it’s got one of the lowest commuting distances in the state – although, with a higher than average unemployment rate, few people are feeling the benefit.
No one wants to live in a city that’s riddled with crime, but unfortunately, that’s exactly what Williston’s 27,250 residents have to do. As well as boasting one of the worst property crime rates in the state (live here, and your chance of being the victim of a robbery are 1 in 34.3), it also has a growing problem with violent crime. Last year, 133 violent crimes were reported, giving residents a 1 in 204 chance of being the victim of rape, assault, aggravated robbery, or murder.
North Dakota doesn’t have the kind of problems you find in a lot of other states. By and large, it’s a peaceful, quiet state with friendly folk, a relaxed pace of life, and enough of the basics to keep most people happy. Compare North Dakota’s worst cities to their counterparts in the likes of Louisiana or New Mexico, and you’ll realize just how good the residents of the Peace Garden State have it. But that doesn’t mean it’s completely immune to problems. When you start comparing like for like, you soon realize that the residents of some of North Dakota’s cities have it much worse than others. The 15,289 residents of Jamestown have it worse than most. For a start, almost 14.7 percent of them live below the poverty line. Then there’s the fact that the crime rate is the 12th highest in the state, with residents standing a 1 in 48.5 chance of being robbed. Understandably, the median home value is no great shakes – list your property here, and you’ll be lucky to see a $145,000 return on your investment.
According to MSN, Minot ranks as the worst city to live in North Dakota. Why? For a start, there’s the food insecurity: as MSN explains, more than two in every three people in the city and surrounding county live in urban areas that are at least 1 mile from a grocery store or in rural areas that are at least 10 miles from one. That’s a long way to travel for a loaf of bread. There’s also the disparity between high median home values and low median incomes to consider: with the average home in Minot fetching a value of 3.1 times the annual household income, people are spending a much higher proportion of their income on housing than they are in other parts of the state. The poverty rate of 10.1% is no laughing matter either.