5 Worst Places to Live in North Carolina

North Carolina, affectionately known as the Tar Heel State, boasts a diverse landscape, a rich history, and a generally favorable quality of life. From the misty Blue Ridge Mountains to the sunny stretches of the Atlantic Coast, North Carolina attracts residents and visitors alike. However, like any state, it has areas that struggle with various challenges, making them less than ideal places to call home.

Before delving into the five towns and cities on our list, it’s essential to understand the criteria used to determine these locations. This analysis considers crucial factors, including:

  • Crime Rate: Towns with persistently high levels of violent and property crime create an unsafe environment for residents.
  • Poverty and Unemployment: Economic hardship, with high poverty and unemployment rates, leads to limited opportunities and contributes to social issues.
  • Economic Outlook: Stagnating local economies and a lack of job growth hinder a community’s ability to progress.
  • Education: The quality of education in a town significantly impacts its desirability and the long-term success of its residents.
  • Amenities and Infrastructure: Healthcare accessibility, recreational opportunities, and the condition of infrastructure like roads and utilities are all vital elements of a livable community.

With these factors in mind, let’s examine the five North Carolina towns that frequently find themselves at the bottom of livability rankings.

5. Lumberton

Situated in Robeson County in the southeastern part of the state, Lumberton faces a multitude of problems. A stubbornly high crime rate, exceeding both state and national averages for both violent and property crimes, casts a shadow over the town. On the economic front, Lumberton battles a significantly higher poverty rate than the national average, limiting opportunities and creating a concerning cycle. Furthermore, residents face a lack of well-paying jobs. Sadly, Lumberton’s hardships have been compounded by its vulnerability to hurricanes and flooding, which cause widespread damage and economic setbacks.

4. Kinston

Located in eastern North Carolina’s Lenoir County, Kinston contends with several issues. The town’s crime rate, particularly the rate of violent offenses, remains a significant cause for concern. Economically, the decline of traditional industries like manufacturing and agriculture has hampered job growth, leaving residents with limited options. Moreover, Kinston faces environmental challenges related to water quality and pollution, posing risks to its residents’ health.

3. Roanoke Rapids

Roanoke Rapids, nestled in Halifax County in the northeastern corner of North Carolina, has experienced a troubling population decline in recent decades. This trend signals a lack of appeal and opportunities for residents. The once-flourishing mill industry in the town has drastically dwindled, contributing to a struggling economy plagued by high unemployment and poverty. While crime rates in Roanoke Rapids might not be as alarming as some other towns on this list, they still exceed national averages. Additionally, the limited availability of appealing shops, restaurants, and recreational facilities further diminishes the quality of life in Roanoke Rapids.

2. Goldsboro

Situated in Wayne County in eastern North Carolina, Goldsboro contends with a disturbingly high rate of violent crime. Additionally, it faces significant income inequality, which contributes to social tensions within the community. Aging infrastructure, including roads and utilities in need of repair and upgrades, presents another challenge for Goldsboro.

1. Lexington

Lexington, in Davidson County in central North Carolina, tops this list due to several critical issues. The town has one of the most alarming poverty rates statewide and even nationally, creating a dire situation for many residents. Lexington also grapples with elevated crime rates, both for property crimes and more serious violent offenses. Sadly, a lack of economic development contributes to a limited job market and a persistent challenge to overcoming the poverty that casts a long shadow over the town.

Important Considerations

It’s crucial to remember that these rankings represent a snapshot based on available data. Towns and cities can change over time, and revitalization efforts could improve the quality of life in these locations. Additionally, individual experiences and preferences can vary widely. What might be unappealing to one person could be perfectly suitable to another.

Before making any decisions about where to live, it’s always advisable to conduct your own thorough research and, if possible, visit any location you may be considering.

The Importance of Perspective

  • Subjectivity: It’s important to recognize that the concept of “worst” places to live can be subjective. Factors like personal priorities, lifestyle choices, and individual circumstances play a significant role in what makes one area better suited than another for a particular person.
  • Focus on the Positive: Even in towns struggling with the challenges outlined, there are likely positive aspects, dedicated residents, and ongoing efforts to revitalize these communities. Focusing solely on the negatives can create an incomplete picture.

Potential Paths to Improvement

  • Economic Development: Investing in programs that attract new businesses, support entrepreneurship, and foster job growth is key to boosting employment and lessening poverty in these struggling towns.
  • Crime Prevention Strategies: Proactive community policing, collaboration between law enforcement and residents, and programs that address the root causes of crime can help create safer environments.
  • Infrastructure Upgrades: Repairing and modernizing roads, utilities, and public services is crucial to attract new residents and businesses while improving the lives of current residents.
  • Educational Support: Investing in schools, resources, and programs focused on raising educational standards can create opportunities for students and contribute to breaking the cycle of poverty.

The Role of Government and Community

  • Policy Initiatives: State and local governments could implement policies and programs designed to target the needs of economically distressed communities, such as tax incentives to attract businesses or grants for infrastructure improvement.
  • Community Engagement: Local leaders, businesses, and residents working together can develop revitalization plans and initiate projects that address the specific challenges facing their town.


While the five towns and cities highlighted in this article face significant hardships, it’s important to view them with a balanced perspective. Understanding the root causes of the issues these communities face can inform solutions and promote a more comprehensive approach to improving quality of life. With strategic policies and dedicated efforts, these struggling places can begin a journey towards greater economic opportunity, safety, and ultimately, a better future for their residents.

Additional Resources

For those interested in further research, here are some resources that offer further insight on these issues:

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MBS Staff
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