South Carolina is a place of tropical beaches, gorgeous weather, and vibrant cities. It’s a place that’s stacked in history and culture, where charm abounds and southern hospitality rules. Unfortunately, it’s also a place of widespread poverty and sky-high crime rates. Make the mistake of moving into one of the Palmetto State’s less illustrious areas, and you’ll be regretting your decision before you know it. To help you decide which places are best avoided, we’ve rounded up the 20 worst places to live in South Carolina. Here they are.
Orangeburg isn’t the kind of place you go to make your fortune. As Road Snacks notes, 27.2% of the city’s 12,861 residents are living below the poverty line. Most households are scraping by on the combined income of $31,455, and a massive 11% of the population have no income to speak of at all. Fortunately, the cost of living is fairly low – if it wasn’t, Orangeburg would have earned a much higher place on our ranking.
Like the idea of living in a town where 23.7% of the population are living below the poverty line? Where 7.9% are unemployed? Where most households are earning the distinctly underwhelming median income of $45,563? Where the schools have some of the lowest spending per head in the state? Us neither, which may just explain why we won’t be moving to Catawba anytime soon.
Road Snacks has ranked Lancaster as one of the ten worst cities to live in South Carolina in 2021. It’s hard to disagree. Lancaster is a city in desperate need of a good news day. Its unemployment rate of 18% is one of the worst in the state. Its crime rate is 9% higher than the South Carolina average. Its median income is a tiny $30,122. Its schools are performing badly and its students receive some of the least funding per head in the state. All in all, it’s not the kind of place many of us would choose to live willingly.
Judson is tiny. By the last count, its population was just 1,546. Why aren’t more people flocking to live here? We can’t say for sure, but we’re guessing the unemployment rate of 6.4%, the poverty rate of 41.3%, and the median income of $20,870 have something to do with it. If you do want to take your chances and move here, you won’t have too many problems in finding a single-family home for just $56,200. However, considering that low home values are more often than not an indication of low living standards, you might want to think twice before you do.
Little Marion may only have a population of 6,466, but its violent crime rate is comparable to a city 5 times its size. If having a crime rate that’s 90% 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. Thanks to its remote location, the job market is floundering, with a massive 16.4% of the population currently claiming unemployment benefits. Almost 25% of the population is living below the poverty level, while the median income is a miserly $33,310.
$33,699 isn’t exactly an income that’s designed to impress, and yet that’s exactly what most households in Greenwood are earning. It’s a figure that’s barely above the poverty line. Unfortunately, 30% of the population are living below that line, which may explain why the city is considered one of the least desirable in South Carolina.
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. Over 30% of the population lives below the poverty line, while the median income of $33,218 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 asking prices of $80,700.
Cheraw is a small town with big-city problems. Its median household income of $33,200 is one of the lowest in the state, while its poverty rate of 21% is similarly diabolical. 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 8,480.9 incidents per 100 thousand residents, Cheraw really isn’t having a great time of it.
Clinton is a city that needs a very big helping hand. Its unemployment rate of 10.4% is eyebrow-raisingly high. Its median income of $28,174 points 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 poverty rate has been slowly climbing for years, with the result that over 30% of the population are now living below the poverty line. With those kinds of statistics, it’s unsurprising that homeowners are struggling to fetch anything more than $78,300 for their properties.
11. Calhoun Falls
Calhoun Falls really doesn’t have a lot to recommend it. 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 35.3%, its median income of $23,919, or its median home value of $46,100. But 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.
How does the thought of living in a city with an unemployment rate of 5.7% strike you? How about somewhere where the median income is a tiny $43,980, where the poverty rate is a giant 19.4%, and the median home value is an insignificant $113,300? If none of this sounds like your idea of fun, you might want to give Batesburg-Leesville a miss.
Let’s set the record straight, Abbeville is by no means all bad. The cost of living is a full 18% lower than the US national average and the school test scores are 20% higher than the US average. But that’s where the good news stops. According to Area Vibes, the median home value of $80,400 is a massive 56% lower than the US national average, the median income of $20,125 is 64% lower, and the crime rate is 30% higher. Unfortunately, even those great school test scores lose some of their significance when you realize that the high school graduation rate is 12% lower than the average for the US.
Bennettsville is a small city of 8,062 people that ranks as one of the poorest places to live in South Carolina. Its median income of $30,440 is tiny, speaking volumes about the state of the city’s job market. The unemployment rate of 12.7% 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 over 30% of the city’s residents live below the poverty line.
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 boasts a 35.4% poverty rate could ever be accused of being even slightly charming. Thirdly, its median income of $19,463 is so low, you have to wonder what’s motivating people to apply for jobs at all. On the plus side, you can buy a house here for just $38,600. Although why anyone would want to is something else entirely.
As you make your way to Charlotte, you might pass Chester. You might even think it’s worth a quick visit. It’s not. With a crime rate that’s the third-highest in the state, even a fleeing visit is probably not worth the risk. For the people who actually live here, the picture is even worse. With an unemployment rate of over 10%, a median income of $26,330, and a poverty rate of 27.6%, Chester is a grim place to be.
Blackville is a historic town with some very 21st-century problems. Jobs in the town are as hard to find as a needle in a haystack, resulting in an unemployment rate of 12.2% and a poverty rate of 44.5%. Even those that strike lucky and find a job aren’t doing much better, with most households earning the tiny median income of just $23,235. If you value your wealth, health, and happiness, you might want to think twice before making Blackville your next home.
4. North Charleston
North Charleston isn’t the kind of place to head if you value your safety. 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 violent crimes in 2018 amounted to a total of 1,039, which included 635 aggravated assaults, 302 rapes, 77 robberies, and 25 murders. Property crimes over the same year totaled 6,567, 4,985 of which were larceny theft. If you don’t want to face the constant threat of having your stuff robbed or damaged, this isn’t the place for you.
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 a sky-high 10.7%, but even those lucky enough to have a job are scraping by on a meager $27,835. Unsurprisingly, the poverty rate is a startlingly high 22%. In an indication of just how undesirable the city is, the median home value is a tiny $107,400. If all that wasn’t enough, there’s really not a lot to do here. If you like hanging around the racetrack every moment of your spare time, you’ll be fine. If you don’t, you’re out of luck.
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 1 in 82 – a massive number when you consider that the average figure for South Carolina is 1 in 196. 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 $32,593 is helping no one. 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 (not to mention why 24/7 Wall St. named it the worst place to live in South Carolina in 2019).
1. 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. As high crime is so often accompanied by high poverty rates, it’s perhaps unsurprising that 18% of the population is unemployed and an alarming 55% of them are living below the poverty line. Live here, and you can kiss goodbye to any dreams of living the good life.