The 10 Worst Chicago Suburbs For 2021


We used science and data to determine which Chicago suburbs are the real pits.

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Editor’s Note: This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out we updated this article for 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the worst suburbs around Chicago.

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..

We examined the 167 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 2021:

  1. Ford Heights
  2. East Chicago
  3. Lake Station
  4. Gary
  5. Dixmoor
  6. Harvey
  7. South Chicago Heights
  8. Robbins
  9. Chicago Heights
  10. Burnham

What's the worst suburb of Chicago? Ford Heights ranks as the worst suburb of Chicago for 2021 based on the most recent Census and FBI data.

Read on to see how we determined the places around Chicago that need a pick-me-up. And remember, don't blame the messenger.

Or, if you're thinking of moving to elsewhere in illinois check out the best places in illinois overall or the worst.

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:

The 10 Worst Chicago Suburbs To Live For 2021

Ford Heights, IL

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 2,736
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Income: $34,167 (5th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 26.4% (highest)
Median Home Value: $46,700 (lowest)
More on Ford Heights:  Data | Photos

We'll get the ball rolling with Ford Heights, the absolute worst place to live around Chicago according to the data.

And in the world of worst rankings, Ford Heights beat the competition pretty handily thanks to scoring in the bottom 15% in three major categories. Income is the 5th worst in the Chicago area, and to make matters worse, the city ranks 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 Ford Heights.

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. East Chicago

East Chicago, IN

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 28,201
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Median Income: $32,839 (4th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 9.1% (27th highest)
Median Home Value: $74,500 (6th lowest)
More on East Chicago:

Welcome to East Chicago. Home to KMart, Big Lots, and a lot of gas stations.

This city is 17.6 miles to Chicago. Income levels here are the 4th lowest in the metro area, where families bring in about $32,839 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.

3. Lake Station

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 12,002
Rank Last Year: 3 (No Change)
Median Income: $47,857 (15th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 9.9% (26th highest)
Median Home Value: $84,400 (9th lowest)
More on Lake Station:

Back up the highway we go for the third worst Chicago suburb you can live in. You might have expected to see Lake Station 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.

4. Gary

Gary, IN

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 76,010
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 1)
Median Income: $31,936 (3rd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 12.4% (11th highest)
Median Home Value: $66,100 (3rd lowest)
More on Gary:

If you live in Gary, most likely you struggle to make ends meet every month. It ranks as the 3rd lowest Chicago suburb when it comes to residents making money.

Not only that, but this is the 11th worst unemployed suburb you can live in if you choose to live near Chicago. Remember, we looked at 167 cities for this study.

Gary is about 24.1 miles to downtown.

Dixmoor, IL

Source: Wikipedia
Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 3,604
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 1)
Median Income: $49,668 (2lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 11.2% (18th highest)
Median Home Value: $61,200 (2nd lowest)
More on Dixmoor:  Data | Photos

Dixmoor has the distinction of being a Chicago suburb. Which means that's about all it has going for it.

All snarkiness aside, Dixmoor has the 2nd lowest home values in the metro Chicago area, where the median price is $61,200. To put that into perspective, in Western Springs, the median income is $250,001, which is the best in the area.

Dixmoor has an unemployment rate of 11.23% which ranks 18th worst.

Harvey, IL

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 24,386
Rank Last Year: 6 (No Change)
Median Income: $30,306 (2nd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 15.1% (6th highest)
Median Home Value: $73,700 (5th lowest)
More on Harvey:  Data | Photos

Harvey has 24,386 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 32.807061163600196%.

South Chicago Heights, IL

Source: Wikipedia
Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 4,076
Rank Last Year: 7 (No Change)
Median Income: $41,138 (7th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 11.0% (19th highest)
Median Home Value: $103,200 (14th lowest)
More on South Chicago Heights:  Data | Photos

Ah, South Chicago Heights. You rank as the 7th worst place to live around Chicago.

It's the place with the 19th most out of work residents in the Chicago metro area (11.0%).

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 5,037
Rank Last Year: 8 (No Change)
Median Income: $27,209 (lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 10.3% (22nd highest)
Median Home Value: $76,400 (7th lowest)
More on Robbins:  Data

Robbins is a city about 13.5 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. Robbins has the 26th most uninsured people, worst incomes, and has the 22nd highest unemployment rate (10.32%) in the entire Chicago metro area.

Homes only cost $76,400 for a reason. That's cheap for Chicago standards.

Chicago Heights, IL

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 29,856
Rank Last Year: 9 (No Change)
Median Income: $50,186 (23rd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 13.1% (9th highest)
Median Home Value: $105,900 (16th lowest)
More on Chicago Heights:  Data | Photos

If you absolutely have to live near Chicago, then Chicago Heights might be a place for you to consider as it's only the 9th worst Chicago suburb.

About 13.12% of residents are out of work.

Burnham, IL

Source: Wikipedia
Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 4,158
Rank Last Year: 10 (No Change)
Median Income: $46,394 (10th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 11.9% (14th highest)
Median Home Value: $96,400 (12th lowest)
More on Burnham:  Data | Photos

Rounding out the ten worst Chicago suburbs to call home is Burnham.

Located 15.4 miles outside the city, Burnhams is a real pit when you look at the data. Its residents have the 14th highest unemployment rate (11.94%), and poverty is far above the area average.

Determining The Worst Suburbs Around Chicago for 2021

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 from 2015-2019, 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 2,000 people. This left us with a grand total of 167 suburbs to evaluate around Chicago.

We ranked each place with scores from 1 to 167 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, Ford Heights. You can download the data here.

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.

The areas around Chicago where the dream is more of a nightmare for 2021

Well there you have it -- the worst of the 'burbs surrounding Chicago with Ford Heights 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.

  • Western Springs
  • River Forest
  • Winnetka

For more Illinois reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Worst Chicago Suburbs

Rank City Population Median Income Median Home Values
1 Ford Heights 2,736 $34,167 $46,700
2 East Chicago 28,201 $32,839 $74,500
3 Lake Station 12,002 $47,857 $84,400
4 Gary 76,010 $31,936 $66,100
5 Dixmoor 3,604 $49,668 $61,200
6 Harvey 24,386 $30,306 $73,700
7 South Chicago Heights 4,076 $41,138 $103,200
8 Robbins 5,037 $27,209 $76,400
9 Chicago Heights 29,856 $50,186 $105,900
10 Burnham 4,158 $46,394 $96,400
11 Riverdale 12,793 $35,711 $79,000
12 Whiting 4,814 $46,653 $129,300
13 Markham 12,493 $43,011 $90,000
14 Hammond 76,547 $46,406 $91,700
15 Summit 11,260 $47,377 $170,800
16 Blue Island 22,611 $48,398 $122,700
17 Posen 6,149 $42,370 $121,100
18 Dolton 22,737 $46,614 $102,600
19 Northlake 12,290 $55,305 $181,700
20 Bridgeview 16,124 $55,687 $183,400
21 Steger 9,366 $49,112 $105,200
22 Stone Park 4,894 $59,778 $118,500
23 Calumet Park 8,208 $48,092 $106,600
24 Maywood 23,578 $50,176 $151,300
25 Justice 12,800 $51,017 $180,600
26 Cicero 82,330 $49,367 $165,100
27 Hillside 8,080 $57,298 $171,900
28 Thornton 2,545 $65,081 $106,100
29 Lansing 27,904 $53,940 $129,900
30 Chicago Ridge 14,153 $48,886 $160,500
31 Melrose Park 25,605 $50,870 $192,000
32 Schiller Park 11,621 $54,099 $203,200
33 Richton Park 13,504 $62,858 $146,000
34 Lyons 10,470 $60,168 $169,800
35 West Chicago 27,180 $78,116 $249,500
36 South Holland 21,677 $63,170 $150,600
37 Hometown 4,272 $50,548 $117,100
38 Country Club Hills 16,758 $61,982 $131,800
39 University Park 6,947 $52,250 $124,100
40 Worth 10,633 $60,516 $171,200
41 Crest Hill 20,550 $56,616 $169,200
42 Bensenville 18,281 $62,756 $217,300
43 Rosemont 4,255 $60,588 $371,500
44 Franklin Park 17,956 $63,971 $203,800
45 Glenwood 8,657 $67,554 $126,000
46 Bellwood 18,996 $56,557 $151,200
47 Matteson 19,385 $83,729 $165,100
48 Park Forest 21,563 $53,938 $73,600
49 Alsip 19,022 $63,312 $171,400
50 Broadview 7,755 $54,219 $158,900
51 River Grove 10,076 $59,814 $211,200
52 Hazel Crest 13,549 $54,347 $113,200
53 Burbank 28,729 $62,573 $192,600
54 Berkeley 5,116 $64,193 $178,700
55 Palos Hills 17,318 $61,143 $203,800
56 Romeoville 39,666 $79,183 $186,100
57 Lynwood 9,279 $66,652 $150,800
58 Berwyn 55,407 $62,758 $211,700
59 Addison 36,896 $67,337 $250,100
60 Midlothian 14,595 $60,160 $150,400
61 Crete 8,118 $79,375 $171,200
62 Wood Dale 13,796 $70,552 $236,900
63 Hanover Park 37,984 $76,615 $195,300
64 Crestwood 10,831 $61,132 $154,300
65 Merrionette Park 2,050 $51,979 $127,700
66 Glendale Heights 34,079 $68,495 $194,400
67 Griffith 16,228 $65,534 $141,700
68 Wheeling 38,499 $68,615 $198,700
69 Hickory Hills 13,816 $65,226 $229,700
70 Countryside 5,961 $60,833 $228,100
71 Prospect Heights 16,137 $73,084 $284,300
72 Stickney 6,679 $65,257 $191,000
73 Des Plaines 58,673 $69,760 $256,700
74 Oak Lawn 55,936 $64,476 $204,000
75 Harwood Heights 8,487 $64,523 $267,300
76 Highwood 5,310 $63,388 $354,800
77 Niles 29,451 $64,772 $284,400
78 Elmwood Park 24,468 $59,963 $258,000
79 Bolingbrook 74,431 $91,290 $223,600
80 Carol Stream 39,726 $82,062 $247,600
81 Rolling Meadows 23,219 $74,134 $241,200
82 Warrenville 13,158 $87,871 $221,700
83 Schererville 28,590 $72,035 $222,400
84 Flossmoor 9,472 $115,288 $239,500
85 Oakbrook Terrace 2,752 $72,326 $306,900
86 Oak Forest 27,617 $76,945 $194,200
87 Forest Park 13,927 $62,664 $234,100
88 Tinley Park 56,505 $78,343 $231,400
89 Streamwood 39,809 $80,651 $192,800
90 North Riverside 6,646 $59,340 $249,400
91 Homewood 19,112 $74,450 $163,100
92 Monee 5,082 $71,082 $163,400
93 Westmont 24,931 $64,416 $301,900
94 Palatine 68,407 $80,526 $284,400
95 Skokie 63,821 $73,046 $318,800
96 Olympia Fields 4,821 $98,977 $226,500
97 Willow Springs 5,604 $83,860 $323,600
98 Villa Park 21,916 $77,739 $245,800
99 Bloomingdale 22,027 $86,350 $302,400
100 Mount Prospect 54,604 $79,733 $330,200

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