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Illinois. America's heartland. The Land of Lincoln. Green summers, cold winters. Farmers and gangsters. And everything in between.
It's not a flyover state. In fact, when you consider Chicago is possibly the best city in America, Illinois can make a case that it's the most important state in the entire midwest.
Where you've got corn fields, corn hole, and some of the hardest-working, down-to-earth people in the country.
But is it all roses in Illinois? Of course not. Just like every other state, Illinois has its issues. The sore spots, if you will. The purpose of this post is to use science and data to determine which Illinois cities need a little tender loving care.
After analyzing 328 of the Prairie State's most populous cities, we came up with this list as the 10 places that could use a hug right about now:
What? Where are these places you wonder? And before you get all riled up and say we're picking on small town America, that's not the case.
We understand there's a lot of good in every place.
However, according to data (which doesn't measure things like beauty and 'friendly people'), there are far better options in the state for making a place home. And the worst place to live in Illinois? That would be Centreville.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2020.
For more Illinois reading, check out:
- Best Places To Live In Illinois
- Cheapest Places To Live In Illinois
- Most Dangerous Cities In Illinois
The 10 Worst Places To Live In Illinois For 2020
Centreville, part of St. Clair County, is the worst place to live in Illinois for 2020.
Residents here earn almost the lowest salaries per year relative to any other residents in the state at $18,955, and crime 4worst in Illinois.
Additionally, the poverty level is 45.6% in Centreville.
If you live in Riverdale, this might not be a surprise, but you have the 53rd highest crime rate, per capita in the state of Illinois. Every year you spend here, you have a 1 in 33.9 chance of being the victim of a property crime like a car break in or home invasion robbery.
That's a lot of stolen cell phones, laptops and black license plates.
Plus there were 99 violent crimes in the last FBI reporting year. That means if you spent a year there, you'd have a 1 in 129 chance of being raped or attacked.
Finally, the folks who live here earn the 8th lowest salaries in Illinois At $33,573 a household, that's simply not enough to get by for most folks.
Cahokia's situation is very similar to others on the list; bottom of the barrel scores in unemployment, income, and crime, with decent education statistics keeping it from the very top of this list.
Cahokia has the 34th worst crime index of any place in Illinois, and has the 7th lowest income.
Kankakee is pretty much the first place you get to when you leave Chicago, south on I-57. And according to the data, it might be the first place you might want to pull over and spread some goodwill.
Kankakee has the third lowest student-teacher ratio in the state, and its public education system is in the bottom 10% as a whole when it comes to spending. The unemployment rate is 11%, which is nearly double the national average.
Factor in a very low median household income and the 16th-highest crime rate in the state, and you've got some real issues. Oh yeah, and there were four murders here in 2020. Yikes.
Kankakee has seen its ups and downs over the years. In the late 90s, it was rated as one of the best places to raise a family one year, and then two years later, rated as the worst place to live by Places Rated Almanac.
But it's been consistently rated as having great golf courses. And they're probably looking for a new friend to play with.
Don't even try and argue about this one. The only thing controversial about East St. Louis being this high is that it wasn't number one.
East St. Louis needs some tough love.
The unemployment rate is 12% which is the second-highest in the state of Illinois. And residents here make a paltry $19,278 a year. That's well below the poverty line. Home values are barely above $40,000, which is the 4th-lowest in the state.
And crime. There isn't a more dangerous city in the state. Not even close.
The only thing keeping East St. Louis from topping this list is the fact that its public school system is actually decent -- meaning student spending and teacher-student ratios are a main focus in trying to turn this community around.
Hopefully, the next generation of kids growing up in this city can step it up and talk some sense into the older generation.
If you've ever taken the backroads to or from Chicago, you might have passed through Hoopeston on Route 1. It seems to be a relatively quiet, clean place.
Here's what science says about why Hoopeston needs some love: The unemployment rate is nearly 13.5%, residents earn about $42,593 a year, and home prices are just over $68,400. Across the board, those are in the bottom 10% in the state. Not absolutely horrible, but not desirable, either.
And there simply isn't anything to do in Hoopeston. Don't believe me? The city's events calendar is...blank.
Maybe people in Hoopeston just need some friends. They don't even have a Facebook page for their city. #FacebookforHoopeston
Rank Last Year: 24 (Up 17)
Median Home Value: $72,500 (15th worst)
Unemployment Rate: 12.4% (20th worst)
More on Robbins: Data
According to science, Robbins is the 7th worst place you can live in Illinois.
Let's see why. Robbins has the 148th-highest crime rate in the state, surprisingly. In terms of number of crimes per person, Robbins is certainly up there.
Factor in a very low housing cost ($72,500), and the 20th-highest unemployment rate in the state (12.4%), and across the board, Robbins doesn't sound like the best of the best.
Plus, there's simply not a lot to do here (unless you count having a Walmart and a Piggly Wiggly as fun). We're aware that people enjoy outdoor activities, but in terms of pure entertainment, you'd have to drive a ways away.
Welcome to Beardstown, Illinois, where 1 in 11.2 people is without a job, and families bring in a combined $39,688 a year.
Crime is the 54th highest in Illinois, where you have a 1 in 36.9 chance of being the victim of a property crime, and every year, you have a 1 in 101 chance of being raped, attacked or murdered when you're within Beardstown city limits.
If you're looking to live in Illinois, Zion might not be the best choice as it places 9th in our ranking of the worst places to live for 2020.
The unemployment rate here is 10.1%, and households bring in a combined $51,039 a year in income. That's not too far from the poverty line, even though money goes a lot further in the boonies of Illinois.
Crime is the 65th highest in the state in Zion as well. Just not a very desirable place at all to make home.
Centralia is a hot mess right now. There are some big economic problems here AND crime is really high. In fact, Centralia is the 30th most dangerous place you can live in Illinois.
Residents in Centralia have a 1 in 25.1 chance of being the victim of a property crime. That's a lot of stolen laptops, cell phones and sunglasses.
When you're considering home prices, you can't do much lower than in Centralia, where average homes are valued at only$67,700. That's the 10th-lowest in the state. But residents earn far less than in other cities, so their mortgage payments might still seem overwhelming.
How we determined the worst places to live in Illinois for 2020
To figure out how bad a place is to live in, we only needed to know what kinds of things people like and then decide what cities have the least amount of those things.
We don't think it's a stretch to assume that people like the following things:
- Good education
- Lots of jobs
- Low crime
- Low poverty
- Nice homes
- High incomes
- High population density (Lots of things to do)
- Short work commutes
- Health insurance
We broke crime down into violent crime and property crime to give violent crime a larger weight -- if you did a simple calculation of all crimes per capita, property crimes are normally 7x more common and really bias that ranking.
Furthermore, only cities with at least 5,000 people were considered -- leaving 328 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 328 for all the criteria with a #1 ranking being the worst for the particular criteria.
Next, we averaged the rankings into one "Worst Place To Live Score".
Finally, we ranked every city on the "Worst Place To Live Score" with the lowest score being the worst city in Illinois -- Centreville. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in Illinois. You can download the data here.
This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased.
Wrapping Up The Worst In Illinois
If you're looking at areas in Illinois with the worst economic situations, where there's higher than average crime, and not a lot to do, this is an accurate list.
And in the end, Centreville ranks as the worst city to live in Illinois for 2020.
If you're curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Illinois:
- Buffalo Grove (Pop. 41,329)
- Western Springs (Pop. 13,227)
- Deerfield (Pop. 18,930)
For more Illinois reading, check out:
Where Are The Worst Places To Live In Illinois?
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