Not everyone is cut out for city life. Some people would prefer to live in the cities and towns that surround Chicago.
So the question arises, do the suburbs maintain a semblance of the larger-than-life appeal of their more famous neighbor?
Today, we’ll use science and data to determine which Chicago ‘burbs need a little tender loving care – the sore thumbs of the Chicago area if you will. Realistically, you can’t expect all the suburbs to live up to Chicago proper, although Western Springs certainly tries.
Of course, not all suburbs of Chicago are created equally, which is precisely why we set out to find the best ones. So without further ado…
We examined the 148 biggest suburbs of Chicago to find out the worst places to live. And while you won’t necessarily find them on the worst places to live in Illinois lists, these ten places are a little too far downwind of Chicago in terms of quality of life.
Here are the 10 worst suburbs around Chicago for 2018:
- East Chicago (Photos)
- Lake Station
- Gary (Photos)
- Harvey (Photos)
- Chicago Heights (Photos)
- Hammond (Photos)
- Riverdale (Photos)
Read on to see how we determined the places around Chicago that need a pick-me-up. And remember, don’t blame the messenger.
And remember, there are some good places to live around Chicago too.
Editor’s Note: If you see a slight difference between the worst in state rankings and this suburb ranking, it’s because of the methodology. We needed a way to include more places, so we eliminated crime and commute times as criteria for this analysis.
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
Determining The Worst Suburbs Around Chicago for 2018
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 most recent American Community Survey data, this is the criteria we used:
- High unemployment rate
- Low median household incomes
- Low population density (no things to do)
- Low home values
- A lot of high school drop outs
- High poverty
- High rate of uninsured families
FYI: We defined a suburb as being within 30 miles of Chicago.
Additionally, we limited the analysis to places that have over 5,000 people. This left us with a grand total of 148 suburbs to evaluate around Chicago.
We ranked each place with scores from 1 to 148 in each category, where 1 was the “worst”.
Next, we averaged the rankings for each place to create a quality of life index.
And finally, we crowned the city with the worst quality of life index the “Worst Suburb near Chicago.” We’re lookin’ at you, East Chicago.
Read on below to learn more about what it’s like to live in the worst of the worst. Or skip to the end to see the list of all the suburbs ranked from worst to best.
1. East Chicago
We’ll get the ball rolling with East Chicago, the absolute worst place to live around Chicago according to the data.
And in the world of worst rankings, East Chicago beat the competition pretty handily thanks to scoring in the bottom 15% in three major categories. Income is the 2nd worst in the Chicago area, and to make matters worse, the city ranks 4th worst when it comes to home values.
But hey, at least it’s cheap to live there. But there’s a reason for that… it’s East Chicago.
You won’t feel bad about not having a great income for the area, there aren’t a bunch of places to spend your money anyway.
2. Lake Station
Welcome to Lake Station. Home to KMart, Big Lots, and a lot of gas stations.
This city is 28.5 miles to Chicago. Income levels here are the 9th lowest in the metro area, where families bring in about $41,439 a year, which doesn’t go a long ways even on a shoestring budget.
But on the bright side, there are a lot of fast food joints in the area.
Back up the highway we go for the third worst Chicago suburb you can live in. You might have expected to see Gary on here. While the cost of living is low, your entertainment and work options are limited. And that’s an understatement.
In terms of numbers, it’s in the worst 15% for insurance, and the adult high school drop out rate is poor compared to other Chicago suburbs.
But at least there are nice parks to bring the kids during the day.
If you live in Harvey, most likely you struggle to make ends meet every month. It ranks as the 1st lowest Chicago suburb when it comes to residents making money.
Not only that, but this is the 5th worst unemployed suburb you can live in if you choose to live near Chicago. Remember, we looked at 148 cities for this study.
Harvey is about 16.0 miles to downtown.
5. Chicago Heights
Chicago Heights has the distinction of being a Chicago suburb. Which means that’s about all it has going for it.
All snarkiness aside, Chicago Heights has the 11th lowest home values in the metro Chicago area, where the median price is $101,100. To put that into perspective, in Western Springs, the median income is $207,857, which is the best in the area.
Chicago Heights has an unemployment rate of 16.4% which ranks 9th worst.
Hammond has 78,349 residents that probably know it’s a pretty crummy place to live when you look at the data. (Or, if you’ve ever been there, you don’t need to look at the data.)
Incomes are towards the bottom and the poverty rate sits at 23.4%.
Ah, Robbins. You rank as the 7th worst place to live around Chicago.
It’s the place with the 15th most out of work residents in the Chicago metro area (15.5%).
Markham is a city about 16.4 miles from Chicago, but Chicago probably wishes it was further away. It ranks as the 8th worst burb for 2018.
You’d be hard pressed to find a worse place to live. Markham has the 50th most uninsured people, 6th worst incomes, and has the 24th highest unemployment rate (12.5%) in the entire Chicago metro area.
Homes only cost $87,700 for a reason. That’s cheap for Chicago standards.
If you absolutely have to live near Chicago, then Riverdale might be a place for you to consider as it’s only the 9th worst Chicago suburb.
About 22.6% of residents are out of work.
Rounding out the ten worst Chicago suburbs to call home is Posen.
Located 14.4 miles outside the city, Posens is a real pit when you look at the data. Its residents have the 6th highest unemployment rate (17.9%), and poverty is far above the area average.
The areas around Chicago where the dream is more of a nightmare for 2018
Well there you have it — the worst of the ‘burbs surrounding Chicago with East Chicago casting itself ahead of the pack.
As we mentioned earlier, the suburbs around Chicago aren’t all bad. Western Springs takes the cake as the best place to live around Chicago.
For more Illinois reading, check out:
- 10 Most Ghetto Cities In Illinois
- These Are The 10 Richest Cities In Illinois
- 10 Safest Places In Illinois
- 10 Worst Places To Live In Illinois