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 325 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 Harvey.
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and see how your city fared in 2019.
For more Illinois reading, check out:
- 10 Best Places To Live In Illinois
- 10 Cheapest Places To Live In Illinois
- 10 Most Dangerous Cities In Illinois
The 10 Worst Places To Live In Illinois For 2019
If you live in Harvey, you’re either going to fiercely protect your town, or you agree that it should be on this list. Either way, it doesn’t matter, because science says it’s the 1st worst place to live in the state.
You’ve got the 8th highest crime rate in Illinois, which saw 80 violent crimes last year. You have a 1 in 2.2 chance of being robbed and a 1 in 24 chance of being attacked, raped or killed here for every year you spend in the city limits of Harvey.
Plus, folks are simply out of work. Harvey sports the state’s 6th highest unemployment rate (18.5%), and families bring in a combined $24,343 a year, which is far below the state average.
No wonder homes are cheap; you can get one yourself for only $72,400.
What the heck is going on in little Centreville? The crime is the 24th highest in the state of Illinois. Here, residents have a 1 in 22.9 chance of being robbed. That means if you live here, and didn’t have something stolen from you, there’s a good chance your neighbor did.
That ratio is one of the highest we’ve seen in the nation. Perhaps the high unemployment rate has something to do with it. More than 19.9% of Centreville residents were without jobs in the latest numbers we collected, which is the 2nd highest in the state.
The city of Dolton is the 3rd worst place you can live in the state of Illinois in 2019.
It’s unlucky for Dolton, which has the 1st highest unemployment rate (22.6%), the 58th lowest household incomes ($44,075) and the 59th lowest home prices in the state ($94,700).
Basically, a lot of people in Dolton are out of work. And crime is certainly a factor here as well. Although it’s not one of the most dangerous places we’ll look at, it’s in the top 20%.
Add it all up, and this is truly one of the worst places you could live in Illinois.
Now we can get to some actual cities that might have some normal numbers. In this case, Cahokia ranks high mainly due to the low economic numbers. Homes are the 2nd cheapest in the state here at $48,700. Say what you want about low cost of living. What the data says is that cheaper homes means less demand. And there isn’t a lot of demand to live in Cahokia.
The median income levels here are the 7th lowest in the state of Illinois, at $30,200. Crime is above average, but not horrible like some of the cities we’ll talk about in a minute. And almost 13.2% of people in Cahokia were without jobs according to the latest numbers.
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 4)
Median Home Value: $86,700 (51st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 13.4% (20th worst)
More on Markham: Data
Markham needs some tough love as it ranks as the 5th worst city to live in Illinois for 2019.
Crime in Markham is the 8th highest in the state, where 1 in 2.2 people have a chance of being the victim of a property crime, according to the latest FBI numbers.
Additionally, the income is almost dead last in Illinois.
If commute time is important, Markham residents have the 117th longest commute of any residents on our list.
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 12.7%, residents earn about $41,313 a year, and home prices are just over $64,100. 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
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 2019. 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.
When you’re looking at science and data, the city of Riverdale is the 9th worst place you can live in the state of Illinois. Let’s see why.
You may be surprised to hear that the crime here is the 67th-highest in the state per capita, according to the FBI data base.
Residents in Riverdale had a 1 in 38.2 chance of being robbed in 2018. To put things into perspective, since the average person has 300 friends on Facebook, if everyone you friended lived in Riverdale, statistically, 25 of them would have been the victim of a property crime, meaning a home robbery, car break in or a stolen wallet.
Riverdale’s other issues are a very high unemployment rate (19.5%) and income levels of its residents ($31,933).
University Park ranks as the 10th-worst place in Illinois due to a variety of factors, placing in the bottom third for unemployment, median income, and crime.
On top of that, residents have the 3rd-worst commute of any place in the state.
How we determined the worst places to live in Illinois for 2019
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 325 cities.
We then ranked each city from 1 to 325 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 — Harvey. Read on for a detailed look at the 10 worst cities in Illinois.
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, Harvey ranks as the worst city to live in Illinois for 2019.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Illinois:
- Buffalo Grove (Pop. 41,551)
- Western Springs (Pop. 13,187)
- Deerfield (Pop. 18,896)
For more Illinois reading, check out: