Chicago’s neighborhoods conjure up too many stereotypes to count. You’ve got hipster areas, preppy places, neighborhoods where college kids thrive, and of course, ghettos. As a whole, the region consistently ranks as one of the best places to live across the country thanks in part to a strong economy and tons of entertainment.
It seems as if there’s a neighborhood for everyone in Chicago.
So the question arises, which Chicago neighborhoods are the worst, and which are the best?
Today, we’ll use science and data to determine which Chicago hoods need a little tender loving care – the sore thumbs of the Chicago area if you will. Realistically, you can’t expect all the neighborhoods to all be amazing, although Forest Glen certainly tries.
We examined 76 of Chicago’s neighborhoods to find out the worst places to live. These ten places are a little too far downwind of Chicago in terms of quality of life:
- West Englewood
- Auburn Gresham
- Fuller Park
- Gage Park
- Chicago Lawn
- West Garfield Park
- Grand Crossing
Read on to see how we determined the places around Chicago that need a pick-me-up. And remember, don’t blame the messenger.
We’re also aware that we didn’t list every single neighborhood. There are places like Wrigleyville and Wicker Park that are great neighborhoods, and thus, we didn’t measure them. You know they are awesome already.
Or, enjoy this video summary as well. The rest of the analysis is below the video, if you’re curious.
How we determined the worst Chicago hoods
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 threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using the criteria found on Area Vibes (which itself gets data from the Census, the FBI, and the Council for Community and Economic Research), here’s what we measured:
- Less jobs
- Low incomes
- High population density (too crowded)
- Low home values
- Higher crime
We crunched the numbers, and got the list from worst to best. Then, we ranked the list based on places that are the worst in all of these categories.
Read on below to learn more about these places around Chicago to live. Or skip to the end to see the list of all 76 suburbs ranked from worst to best.
This list is a scientific analysis based on real data and is completely unbiased. Snarkiness incorporated for entertainment purposes only. Hold onto your pants.
1. West Englewood
Crime Index: 3rd worst
Median Income: $29,643
We’ll get the ball rolling with West Englewood, the absolute worst neighborhood to live around Chicago, according to the data.
And in the world of worst rankings, West Englewood easily beat the competition thanks to scoring in the bottom 3 in three major categories. You know this place is bad when Google autosuggests, “West Englewood crime” before you even finish typing the neighborhood’s name.
West Englewood’s crime is the third worst of all Chicago neighborhoods, and just about the entire population struggles to make ends meet every month.
This neighborhood is defined as the area surrounded by W. Garfield Blvd, S. Racine Ave., and a couple of railroad tracks.
So yeah, this ‘hood is on the other side of the tracks, literally.
Crime Index: 4th worst
Median Income: $20,200
Englewood is the slightly smaller, much poorer ‘twin’ of West Englewood. Here, folks are just straight living in poverty. Believe it or not, but at $20,000 a year, that’s only the 3rd poorest hood in south Chicago. A family of four needs about $25,000 a year to stay out of poverty every year, according to the government standards.
It’s just about as dangerous here as it is next door in West Englewood. You don’t want to walk alone through these places, even in the daytime.
Crime Index: Worst
Median Income: $14,000
It’s shocking that in America, we can have neighborhoods in which the entire population lives well below the poverty level like we do here in Riverdale. Actually, it’s pretty sad.
Crime is the absolute worst of any other Chicago neighborhood, nearly 1 in 5 residents doesn’t have a job, and homes sell for an average of $90,000.
The only reason Riverdale didn’t top the list is because we measured population density in our criteria, and Riverdale is the least densely populated neighborhood in the Chicago area. When you look at the numbers, it’s easy to see why people are fleeing this neighborhood in droves.
Riverdale is about halfway between downtown and Chicago Heights, along I-94. If you find yourself lost, don’t get off on E. 130th Street. That’s Riverdale. That’s bad.
4. Auburn Gresham
Crime Index: 11th worst
Median Income: $33,932
So far, all of the worst neighborhoods in Chicago are on the south side. That isn’t a surprise at all.
Auburn Gresham is a densely packed hood roughly between 75th and 91st Streets. Here, crime isn’t as bad as it is for the cities above, but it’s still really rough. When 16% of the neighborhood is out of work, and families bring in about $33K a year, you’re going to have some big problems to contend with.
5. Fuller Park
Crime Index: 2nd worst
Median Income: $18,000
Want to play a joke on your friends? Text them that you’re going to Fuller Park for a house party and see their reactions.
Up the road a bit from Auburn Gresham is the teeny hood of Fuller Park. And we mean, this place is a real hood. All of the nearly 3,000 residents live in or very near poverty, and this is the 2nd most dangerous place you can live in the Chicago area.
No wonder homes sell for around $114,000 each. We’re surprised it’s even that high.
Fuller Park is on both sides of 90/94 between E. Pershing and W. Garfield. There are no exits through this area. Perhaps for a reason.
6. Gage Park
Crime Index: 13th worst
Median Income: $38,093
Just west of Fuller Park – between 51st and 59th Streets – is the neighborhood of Gage Park, where it’s dangerous and poor. Incomes are actually higher here than any other neighborhood on this list, which puts into perspective just how broke some of the neighborhoods are in south Chicago.
7. Chicago Lawn
Crime Index: 8th worst
Median Income: $36,340
It’s too bad that the entire area that surrounds Marquette Park near Midway is such a bad neighborhood. This is the 8th most dangerous hood in Chicago, and homes are only valued at $146,000 as a result.
On the bright side, ‘only’ 10% of the residents in Chicago Lawn are unemployed. That’s still twice the national average, but good for a Chicago hood.
8. West Garfield Park
Crime Index: 18th worst
Median Income: $26,594
Continuing our journey of the worst Chicago neighborhoods, we come to West Garfield Park, the first neighborhood that’s not in south Chicago.
Here, most of the residents live at or below poverty, and crime is far higher than it is in other neighborhoods in the Chicago area. You have a 1 in 20 chance of being the victim of crime for every year you spend in West Garfield Park neighborhood limits.
To get there, head due west on Madison St. past the United Center. But why would you want to go unless you wanted to hang out at Garfield Park and then scurry out of there?
9. Grand Crossing
Crime Index: 14th worst
Median Income: $31,494
The Grand Crossing neighborhood of Chicago is between E. 67th and E. 79th, not too far away from the lake. If you want to head to the lake, you’d best veer around this place, since it’s very dangerous and poor.
The only reason Grand Crossing didn’t rank higher is that it’s a lot less crowded than most other neighborhoods in the region, and we felt as if ‘less’ crowded was a good thing.
Crime Index: 19th worst
Median Income: $35,393
Chatham is the final ‘worst’ Chicago neighborhood to make this list. Almost 14% of the people who live here don’t work, and homes go for less than $150,000 on average. Trust us, there’s a reason there’s no demand to live here.
Chatham is the hood between 79th and 93rd Street along 90/94.
The ‘hoods around Chicago that are really hoods
Well there you have it — the worst of the ‘hoods surrounding Chicago with West Englewood landing ahead of the pack.
As we mentioned earlier, the neighborhoods around Chicago aren’t all bad. Forest Glen takes the cake as being the best neighborhood you can live in. Other great Chicago hoods: Beverly, Edison Park, Near South Side and Norwood Park.
Now that you’re done reading this, you’ll definitely enjoy a funny ‘Visit Chicago’ commercial we found. Click here to watch it.
For the chart below, these are ranked from worst to best.
Detailed List Of The Worst Neighborhoods To Live In Chicago
|West Garfield Park||8|
|East Garfield Park||28|
|Lower West Side||33|
|Near West Side||63|
|Near North Side||66|
|Near South Side||73|