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
Harvey needs some tough love.
Years ago, someone told me the sun never shines in Harvey. That’s not true, of course, but you can understand why she might say that when you analyze certain facts about Harvey. Of the 325 cities considered in this ranking, Harvey had the least to be proud of across the board.
Not only does Harvey have Illinois’s 19th lowest home value rank, but it also had the 6th and 8th highest rankings in unemployment and crime respectively. Statistics like that will certainly make the sun shine a bit dimmer, and it will win you are in contention for title of “Worst City in Illinois.”
If you know anyone in Harvey, tag them on Facebook and tell them you love them. They can probably use it right about now.
When you’re looking at science and data, Centreville is the 2nd worst place you can live in the state of Illinois. Let’s see why.
First off, the crime here is really high, in comparison to the rest of Illinois. Centreville is the 24th most dangerous place you can live in the state, where you have a 1 in 22.9 chance of being the victim of some type of property crime. Meaning lots of people are getting robbed here.
Homes here average $47,900, which is the 1st lowest in the state. You can defend ‘cheap living’ all you want, but the fact is, homes are priced by demand, and there’s not a lot of demand to live in Centreville.
Income levels are just about $17,441, the 1st lowest in Illinois.
When you add it all up, Centreville really is quite an undesirable place to live. The people who have to live in here could use a big hug right about now.
The unemployment rate in Dolton is a sky high 22.6%, which is the 1st highest in the state. Ouch.
The median income in Dolton is $44,075. That means 26.6% of the population is living below the poverty line. Crime isn’t horrible here, but you have a 1 in 2.2 chance of being the victim of a property crime when you’re within city limits every year.
Here in Cahokia, you have some of the highest crime and the highest unemployment rates in Illinois. That’s not a good combination.
Located in St. Clair County, you have a 1 in 23.5 chance of being the victim of a property crime when inside Cahokia city limits every year. Some of those crimes might be due to the relatively high unemployment rate (13.2%). That’s good for the 22nd highest unemployment rate in Illinois.
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 4)
Median Home Value: $86,700 (51st worst)
Unemployment Rate: 13.4% (20th worst)
More on Markham: Data
If you live in Markham, this might not be a surprise, but you have the 8th highest crime rate, per capita in the state of Illinois. Every year you spend here, you have a 1 in 2.2 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 80 violent crimes in the last FBI reporting year. That means if you spent a year there, you’d have a 1 in 24 chance of being raped or attacked.
Finally, the folks who live here earn the 14th lowest salaries in Illinois At $35,200 a household, that’s simply not enough to get by for most folks.
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.
According to science, Riverdale is the 9th worst place you can live in Illinois.
Let’s see why. Riverdale has the 67th-highest crime rate in the state, surprisingly. In terms of number of crimes per person, Riverdale is certainly up there.
Factor in a very low housing cost ($82,200), and the 4th-highest unemployment rate in the state (19.5%), and across the board, Riverdale 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.
You can sure expect that University Park is going to be a pretty rough place to live, it comes in 10th in our analysis. It is. In fact, University Park has the 8th-highest crime rate in the state. Probably no surprises there.
There were 80 violent crimes here in 2019, and residents have a 1 in 2.2 chance of being the victim of a property crime. That means, most likely, if you live in University Park, either you or someone on your block had their home or car broken into last year.
You can also imagine that the economy here is in the pits — the unemployment rate sits at 14.3% which is the 15th worst in Illinois.
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)
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