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:
Where are these places, you wonder? And before you get all riled up and say we’re picking on small towns in Illinois, that’s not the case.
We understand there’s a lot of good in every place. For example, the best place to live in Illinois is Western Springs.
However, according to data (which doesn’t measure things like beauty and ‘friendly people’), the state has far better options for making a place home. And the worst place to live in Illinois? The worst place to live in Illinois is Harvey.
Read below to see how we crunched the numbers and how your city fared in 2023.
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 2023
Part of a web of suburbs just south of Chicago, Harvey sits in the northeast part of the state, close to the Indiana border. The area is known for its severe problems with poverty and crime, making it one of the worst places to live in Illinois.
The 20,751 residents of Harvey suffer with a 13.9% unemployment rate and a median income of $35,572. Even the city itself is poor. In 2018, the city had its revenue garnished to make sure it paid pension liabilities.
Not everything in Harvey is bleak, though. Residents can head to the Kickapoo Meadows forest preserve on the north end of town, a spot famous for model airplane flying.
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $91,900
Unemployment Rate: 16.8%
More on Markham: Data
Early settlers knew the area around Markham as an important crossroads. That continues to be true today, as two major highways (I-57 and I-294) intersect near town. Unfortunately, you probably wouldn’t want to do much more than pass through the area. It counts as the number 2 worst location in the state.
Markham, located just south of Chicago has problems with high unemployment (16.8%) and low wages (median income: $43,835).
Still, the 11,733 residents of Markham have significant town pride. Take the story of the Lone Pine Tree. A German settler planted pine trees from Germany’s Black Forest in town in 1860. While the last of the original pines died in the 1980s, the town has planted a replacement. The Lone Pine now serves as the town’s symbol.
Cahokia is built on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River, across the water from St. Louis, Missouri. It was originally founded in the late 1600s – the town’s Church of the Holy Family is the oldest church on the western side of the Allegheny Mountains. These days, though, the town faces tough times. In fact, it serves as the number 3 worst spot to live in Illinois.
The 12,440 residents of the area face multiple problems. First, there’s the economy. The unemployment rate hangs at 12.0% and the median income comes in at $30,556. Second, there’s the town’s crime problem. The crime rate sits 170% above the U.S. norm. Along with these, Cahokia also suffers housing and education issues.
Riverdale is another example of a group of rough suburbs located south of Chicago. Its 10,909 residents struggle with crushing unemployment, high crime, and an uninspiring education system. As a result, the town rate as the number 4 least appealing location in Illinois.
The economy is the main problem in the area. The unemployment runs a frightening 16.8%. The median income comes in at $38,233. These financial limitation lead to other challenges. The crime rate hovers more than 40% above the national average, and the local schools top out at a 5/10 on Great Schools.
Locals can find sanctuary in the outdoors, however. For such an urban location, Riverdale has a significant amount of green space, being bordered on three sides by forest preserves, including the Whistler Woods Forest Preserve to the north.
For a town of just 21,588 people, Dolton has produced more than its fair share of famous people. Former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb, prominent movie reviewer Richard Roeper, and Glee star Jane Lynch all hail from the area. No wonder they left: Dolton stands as the number 5 least attractive location in Illinois to put down roots.
Dolton sits just south of Chicago, one of a number of economically challenged suburbs in the area. Locals face a 16.2% unemployment rate and a median income of $53,047. With such a limited tax base, the education system suffers. The top school in town only grabs a 4/10 on Great Schools.
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 13.8%, residents earn about $43,330 a year, and home prices are just over $58,700. 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
East St. Louis is clearly on this list. It’s a St. Louis suburb. You’ve heard of it if you live in Illinois. It was once 83,000 people. Now, it’s a third that size. And dropping by the month. This is the 324th poorest place in the state, and the 3rd most violent, though it had the highest murder rate per capita in the nation at one point, and overall, a crime rate 18 times higher than the rest of the country. Crime used to be worse here, but as you can see, lots of the really bad areas were just knocked to the ground. So there’s less rundown areas in which to commit crimes these days.
What was once an all american city began its decline in the early 1970s when the middle class moved out of the area, and the resulting failed tax base meant basic city services, including police and fire departments, had trouble operating.
Much of the land outside of the city remains undeveloped, bypassed by folks who chose more affluent suburban areas. What’s left in city limits proper are widely scattered “inner city” neighborhoods, truck stops, adult venues, liquor stores and other blighted sections of town.
Most folks make about $26,011 a year on average.
Methodology: How we determined the worst places to live in Illinois for 2023
To figure out the worst places to live in Illinois, 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 more significant weight. If you did a simple calculation of all crimes per capita, property crimes are typically 7x more common and 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 ten worst cities in Illinois.
Summary: 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 little to do, this is an accurate list.
And in the end, Harvey ranks as the worst city to live in Illinois for 2023.
If you’re curious enough, here are the best cities to live in Illinois:
- Libertyville (Pop. 20,616)
- Buffalo Grove (Pop. 43,062)
- Western Springs (Pop. 13,550)
For more Illinois reading, check out:
Worst Places To Live In Illinois?
|7||East St. Louis||19,437|
|64||Round Lake Beach||27,412|
|68||Country Club Hills||16,746|
|86||Round Lake Park||7,559|