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The 20 Worst Places to Live in South Carolina

Georgetown

From beautiful coastlines to outdoor adventures, South Carolina is a great place for individuals and families to go when they are looking to discover a fresh way of living and being at peace with nature. This East Coast paradise serves as a bridge between the Northern states and the deeper South, so it is placed nicely for those who have relatives in either direction. Accordingly, people come from across the United States and even the world to see what South Carolina has to offer.

According to the Economic Times, one survey suggested that in 2023, South Carolina became the top state that people moved to. There’s no doubt that people have come in hoards to South Carolina so that they could make the most out of South Carolina’s beaches, nice weather, and affordable cost of living. For many people, it is a good place to live because it balances a lot of desirable features with relatively few downsides. South Carolina may not be the best state for big city people, but it has a range of amenities and attractions that make it stand out as having some of the best places to live.

Despite there being countless nice areas in South Carolina, if you are considering a move to South Carolina or even just a visit, there are some areas that you may want to stay clear of to ensure your South Carolina experience is as rewarding as possible. Of course, most of these places aren’t entirely bad. Many have qualities that locals love, but they are ranked in comparison to the other areas in South Carolina that have more desirable features. Discover the worst places to live in South Carolina and what makes these places more undesirable than their counterparts.

How We Made This List

There are many places to live in South Carolina, and we wanted to be sure that we treated each place with as much respect and fairness as possible when assembling this list. We began by creating a list of towns and cities across South Carolina. From there, we could research different areas and eliminate certain areas or add other ones to our shortlist. We strived to hold each location to the same standards to ensure our list was not discriminatory.

Once we had our shortlist, we focused on digging even further into the research to find more information in some of our key categories, which we determined would be our basis for ranking how good a place was to live. While other research had an impact, our key parameters included:

  • Safety: For many people choosing to live in a location, safety is among the most important. Higher crime rates or other safety concerns often were correlated with a higher place on this list.
  • Costs, Taxes, and Economic Status: Money matters, so we looked into economic factors that may make it hard for people in certain areas to have the financial status that they would want. Low economic health was a sign that an area had a lot of issues.
  • Property: A huge factor for many people is the ability to have a property to call their own. We used home value and property statistics to determine which areas were likely worse to live. Low home values often reflect areas that aren’t desired.
  • Career Development and Opportunities: To live happily, most people need to be sure that they have career opportunities that allow them to grow and make the most of their skills. Thus, many places on this list have poor career opportunities or job growth.
  • Diversity and Equality: Areas that had lower equality among different types of people or had high levels of prejudice were ranked higher on the list of the worst places to live in South Carolina.
  • Educational Opportunities and Outcomes: Areas with poor education are usually worse. Thus, education opportunities and outcomes were an important factor for the quality of life in different areas.
  • Nearby Amenities and Standout Features: Many people like to have certain amenities or at least stand-out features available. We also looked at accessibility to needs. For example, food deserts are a mark of a lower quality of living. The same is true of poor-quality drinking water or frequent power outages.
  • Lifestyle and Climate: For many people, lifestyle and climate are important. While people have different preferences for what they want, we considered the level of ability for people to lead different lifestyles. We also considered any climate or weather concerns. While most areas have similar climates, there is some diversity in South Carolina, and certain areas are more prone to issues like flooding or natural disasters or are less equipped to handle

Whenever possible, we relied on quantifiable numbers to use to formulate each position on the list. U.S. Census Quick Facts was one of our main resources and gave us reliable statistics for many areas, such as population, median household income, education level, and countless other key demographics. It also allowed us to easily compare different towns to each other, the state of South Carolina, and other comparable United States towns. We also used other census tools and resources often.

Another resource we commonly used was the most recent South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Crime in South Carolina Book. We also relied heavily upon the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer.

Additionally, government data, property sales, educational reports, crime rates (we often consulted Area Vibes), and other similar data were all used to get a clear picture of how the place stands up. We used qualitative data to fill in gaps when necessary and to help paint a more human picture of the locations on the list.

20.Georgetown

Georgetown isn’t the kind of place you want to hang around for long. For a start, the crime rate is through the roof. According to Neighborhood Scout, your chance of being a victim of a violent crime in Georgetown is 17.18 per 1000 residents — a massive number when you consider that the average figure for South Carolina is 4.91. It is ranked 160 out of 185 for crime, which is concerning given that it doesn’t even have 10,000 residents.

Then there’s the unemployment rate of 7.6% to consider, which, while not the highest in the state, still manages to be one of the worst. 22.8% of the population lives in poverty, while the median income of $50,000 is better than some on this list but is still below where it should be. 15.5% of the population is in poverty with few opportunities to get out of it. Factor in the fact that there’s very little to do here, and it’s easy to see why people aren’t lining up to live here.

19. Batesburg-Leesville

Batesburg-Leesville is a town with just over 5,000 people, and this sleepy town doesn’t fail to disappoint many of the people who live there. It prides itself on small businesses, but it has a long way to go with its revitalization process before it becomes a great town.

The town needs to strive for better schooling as only 81% of people over 25 have at least a high school degree. Poverty rates are at 15.8% and the median household income is about $50,000.

Its crime rates also aren’t as drastic as other items on the list, but they are still over the national average, and the violent crime is 96% above the national average.

It may not be the worst place on the list, but that doesn’t mean it’s a place you’d want to live. If none of this sounds like your idea of fun, you might want to give Batesburg-Leesville a miss.

18. Catawba

This is a small town of less than 1,000 people, but it has big problems that cannot be overcome with great amenities. Like the idea of living in a town where there’s not much to do and very few opportunities to give you a good life? We don’t either.

Violent crime in Catawba is extreme for such a small area, and it is nearly twice that of the national average at 42.5. Most households are earning the distinctly underwhelming median income of $48,185. The schools have some of the lowest spending per head in the state.

We won’t be moving to Catawba anytime soon.

17. Abbeville

Let’s set the record straight, Abbeville is by no means all bad. The cost of living is a great and the school test scores have been better than average. But that’s where the good news stops.

According to Area Vibes, the median home value of $95,600 is a massive percentage lower than the US national average. Crime rates aren’t great either. They are 8% above the nation average and violent crime is 56% higher. Unfortunately, even those great school test scores lose some of their significance when you realize that the high school graduation rate is  lower than the average for the US.

16. Watts Mills

If you think small towns are all about friendly neighbors and old fashioned values, you’ve clearly not come across many small towns like Watts Mills in your time. Despite having just 1,377 residents to its name, Watts Mills is facing an increasing problem with crime, and the town also have a lack of resources and opportunities that make it a relatively grim place to live.

The county that Watts Mills is in experiences higher crime rates than many of the other areas in South Carolina. While this area isn’t the most high-crime of all the areas, the less than perfect crime rate is just another feature stacked against it.

The town has been called “the ugliest place in SC,” and while this community was once a nice place, supported by its mill that made cotton fabric, the closure of the textile mill has left the whole town to fall apart. Accordingly, the median household income is lower than average at $43,401. Employment rates aren’t great, at only 50.8%. Additionally, a shocking 30.2% of people do not have health care coverage.

Live here, and you can kiss goodbye to any dreams of living the good life.

15. Darlington

If you want to live in the kind of place where jobs are plentiful, decent incomes are the norm, and there’s plenty of things to do, you might want to skip Darlington. Not only is the unemployment rate problematic, but even those lucky enough to have a job are scraping by on a meager $33,750 median household income.

Unsurprisingly, the poverty rate is a startlingly high 30.9%. In an indication of just how undesirable the city is, the median home value is a small $158,100. If all that wasn’t enough, there’s really not a lot to do here. Like hanging around the racetrack every moment of your spare time? You’ll be fine. 

14. North Charleston

North Charleston isn’t the kind of place to head if you value your safety. It is a city with a population of around 118,608, so it is one of the most populated areas on the list. Its crime is so out of control, it’s earned pole position on Only In Your States‘ list of the Top 10 Most Dangerous Places to Live in South Carolina.

The crime rate of North Charleston amounts to 58.24 per 1,000 people with a violent crime rate of 9.49 per 1,000 people. This number is nearly double the South Carolina median and over double the national median of 4. If you don’t want to face the constant threat of having your stuff robbed or damaged, this isn’t the place for you.

Beyond just the crime issues, North Charleston has some other issues as well. For example, about 18.3% in this area are without health insurance. The household median income is $58,534, which is closer to the national average than many other items on the list. Unfortunately, living expenses tend to be higher. For instance, the median mortgage is higher than the state average at $243,300 without giving that many benefits.

13. Greenwood

Greenwood is a city with about 23,000 people, and it is home to Lander University. Thus, Greenwood has some good things going for it, but as a town that was grown by the railroad and agriculture, it has since seen a decline as those industries have declined. In the 1900s, it reoriented to textiles, but industry in Greenwood is far from what it used to be.

A per capita income of $21,399 isn’t exactly an income that’s designed to impress. Families tend to strive for more than $38,884, and yet that’s exactly what most households in Greenwood are earning. It’s a figure that’s barely above the poverty line.  Unfortunately, 24.7% of the population live below that line, which may explain why the city is considered one of the least desirable in South Carolina.

12. Lancaster

 Lancaster is a city in desperate need of a good news day. This city’s population of around 9,000 often struggles to have the lives they want. With a median household income of $37,714, Lancaster has significantly lower income than many areas in South Carolina.

Its schools are performing badly and its students receive some of the least funding per head in the state. Only about 82.7% of the population has a high school degree or higher. All in all, it’s not the kind of place many of us would choose to live willingly.

11. Calhoun Falls

Located in Abbeville County, Calhoun Falls really doesn’t have a lot to recommend it for. For a start, its unemployment rate is a massive 11.6%. Huge though that number is, it’s not the worst in the state. Neither is its poverty rate of 21%, and its median household income of $33,419. Around 28% of all homes are less than $50,000 and 41.3% are priced between $50,000 and $99,999, so the housing market is far from thriving.

Education isn’t thriving either. With school enrollment of only about 78.8%, the educational system could be doing a lot better to prepare kids to help build a bright future for the town.

When you add all those things together (and factor in the fact that there’s almost nothing whatsoever to do here), you’re quickly looking at one of the least desirable places to live in South Carolina.

10. Orangeburg

If you’re looking for a place with lots of amenities and opportunities, Orangeburg probably isn’t the place for you.  This town of about 13,349 is relatively small, so it only has so many opportunities available.

For crime, Orangeburg is ranked #114 in all of South Carolina out of 185, so it is far from the worst, but it is still in the lower half.

Most households are scraping by on a combined income of $29,340, which is markedly lower than the state average of $63,623. The per capita income only amounts to around $19,944. Fortunately, the cost of living is fairly low – if it wasn’t, Orangeburg would have earned a much higher place on our ranking.

9. Spartanburg

Spartanburg, South Carolina, is a city in South Carolina that is known for a lot of culture ventures, but unfortunately, it is also known for having crime issues that make it hard to enjoy living in this area, even if you’re tempted by the many good attributes this area has.

This home to 345,831 is plenty populated, but it probably wouldn’t be your first choice of places to live. After all, although the median household income is nearly in line with the state average and housing costs are pretty good, many people are nervous about the crime. The crime rate is 204% higher than the national average, and the violent crime is 223% higher than the average. While urban areas tend to have higher crime rates, other cities in the state, such as Charleston, have much better crime stats.

You may be able to justify living in Spartanburg, but consider the pros versus the cons very carefully, and remember that there are likely better balanced places to live if you’re looking for city amenities and affordability.

8. Blackville

Blackville is a historical town with some very 21st-century problems. It’s population is dwindling at only 3,296, and its people struggle to stay afloat. Jobs in the town are as hard to find as a needle in a haystack, resulting in 19.5% of the people who live in poverty.

Even those that strike lucky and find a job aren’t doing much better, with most households earning the tiny median income of just $39,590, which is hard for many families to live happily on. If you value your wealth, health, and happiness, you might want to think twice before making Blackville your next home.

7. Bennettsville

Bennettsville is a small city of 6,654 people that ranks as one of the poorest places to live in South Carolina. The per capita income is a mere $21,151. Its median household income of $37,891 is tiny, speaking volumes about the state of the city’s job market.

The unemployment rate is by no means the worst in South Carolina, but it’s a long way away from being considered even remotely respectable. Unsurprisingly, the poverty rate is astronomical, with the latest data suggesting that around 27.1% of the city’s residents live below the poverty line.

The median owner-occupied house value is only around $94,000 so there isn’t much to look forward to when it comes to this town.

6. Marion

Little Marion may only have a population of 6,208, but its violent crime rate is comparable to a city 5 times its size. If having a crime rate that’s 177% higher than the South Carolina average was the only problem Marion was facing, it may not have made our list.

Unfortunately, everything else is just as bleak, from employment to schools to amenities, there’s a lot not to like. Only 85.3% of people have a high school degree or higher, and the higher education stats are over 10 percent lower than the state’s average. Thanks to its remote location, the job market is floundering, and as a result, 30.7% of the population are living in poverty. The median household income is a miserly $28,551.

Marion may have its charms, but they are few and far between, and it will take a lot of effort if this town wants to recover from its hardships.

5. Union

Union, South Carolina is known for being a historical town, and it began ro grow during the Revolutionary War, and it remained unscathed during the Civil War due to flooding. Recently, it has had some bad luck, and things are far from rosy in the little city of Union.

Its unemployment rate of 8.6% is by no means the worst in the state, but it’s a long way from being the best. 25.4% of the population are in poverty, while the median household income of $32,548 is a fraction of the national average.

Considering that low incomes are usually correlated with low home values, it comes as little surprise to learn that properties here are struggling to exceed even a meager $100,000. Only 47.8% of houses are owner-occupied, and renters can expect to pay $773 for rent, which is relatively low but doesn’t get you much.

4. Clinton

Although Clinton, South Carolina is known as the proud home of Presbyterian College, that’s about where the good qualities end!

Clinton is a city that needs a very big helping hand. Its unemployment rate of 10.4% is eyebrow-raisingly high. Its household median income of $28,174 and per capita income of $18,729 point to a job market that’s anything but healthy (although considering the city has the fewest doctors in the state, it’s probably not the only thing that’s sickening).

The total crime is 122% above the national average, and violent crime is even worse at 225% above the national average. As a town with only around 8,500, those stats are very startling.

The poverty rate has been slowly climbing for years, with the result that over 25% of the population are now living below the poverty line. With those kinds of statistics, it’s unsurprising that the housing market is only so-so.

3. Cheraw

Cheraw is a small town with big-city problems. While it only has about 5,000 people, it has a long history. Native Americans of the Cheraw and Pee Dee tribes migrated to the area in the 17th century but were devastated by disease and war. European settlers began to dominate the area and continued to have misfortune as the area was central in the Revolutionary War. It has had highs and lows since that time, and it's currently experiencing a run of bad luck. 

Its median household income of $29,276 is one of the lowest in the state, while its poverty rate of 35.7% is similarly drastic.

If poverty wasn’t enough for its residents to have to deal with, they’re also facing one of the highest crime rates in the state. With a crime rate equating to 7,276 incidents per 100 thousand residents, which is over 213% higher than the national average. The violent crime is also 213% higher than the national average.

Moreover, the schools are mediocre at best, the amenities are lacking, commutes are long, and housing options are limited. Cheraw really isn’t having a great time of it.

2. Allendale

If there’s one South Carolina town that’s breaking the stereotype of charming small towns more than most, it’s Allendale. Yes, it’s small (by the last count, its population was just pushing past the 3000 mark), but as for charming?

Not even slightly. For a start, the crime rate really isn’t great. Secondly, no town that, according to the United States Census Bureau, has a up to a 43.3% poverty rate could ever be accused of being even slightly charming. Thirdly, its median household income of $19,463 is so low, you have to wonder what’s motivating people to apply for jobs at all.

You’re probably not surprised to learn that the crime rate is 67% times the national average, and worst of all, the violent crime rate is 240% the national average. You’re not going to have much luck with school, health and safety, or amenities, either in Allendale.

On the plus side, you can buy a house here for just $38,600. Although why anyone would want to is something else entirely.

1. Chester

As you make your way to Charlotte, you might pass Chester. You might even think it’s worth a quick visit. You may want to pass this one by. Educational systems aren’t thriving, health and safety could be better, and housing prospects are dire.

With a crime rate that’s one of the highest in the state, even a fleeing visit is probably not worth the risk. You should be most concerned with the violent crime rate that’s 594% higher than the national average, which is extraordinary given that Chester has around 5,187 residents. The crime rate is the main factor that catapulted this town to number one on the list, but that’s far from the only issue here.

For the people who actually live here, the picture is even worse. With an unemployment rate of over 10%, a median household income of $39,951, and a poverty rate of 23.8%, Chester is a grim place to be.

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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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