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 165 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:
- Ford Heights
- East Chicago
- Lake Station
- Harvey (Photos)
- South Chicago Heights
- Chicago Heights (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.
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 2,000 people. This left us with a grand total of 165 suburbs to evaluate around Chicago.
We ranked each place with scores from 1 to 165 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.
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. Ford Heights
Population: 2,775Unemployment Rate: 44.1%
Median Home Price: $58,800
Median Income: $23,220
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 2nd worst in the Chicago area, and to make matters worse, the city ranks 2nd 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
Population: 28,961 Unemployment Rate: 16.2%
Median Home Price: $75,000
Median Income: $27,264
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 3rd lowest in the metro area, where families bring in about $27,264 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
Population: 12,199 Unemployment Rate: 12.3%
Median Home Price: $81,000
Median Income: $41,439
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.
Population: 77,858 Unemployment Rate: 16.6%
Median Home Price: $65,400
Median Income: $28,895
If you live in Gary, most likely you struggle to make ends meet every month. It ranks as the 4th lowest Chicago suburb when it comes to residents making money.
Not only that, but this is the 12th worst unemployed suburb you can live in if you choose to live near Chicago. Remember, we looked at 165 cities for this study.
Gary is about 24.1 miles to downtown.
Population: 25,625Unemployment Rate: 20.7%
Median Home Price: $72,700
Median Income: $21,909
Harvey has the distinction of being a Chicago suburb. Which means that’s about all it has going for it.
All snarkiness aside, Harvey has the 6th lowest home values in the metro Chicago area, where the median price is $72,700. To put that into perspective, in Western Springs, the median income is $211,023, which is the best in the area.
Harvey has an unemployment rate of 20.7% which ranks 8th worst.
6. South Chicago Heights
Population: 4,143Unemployment Rate: 17.6%
Median Home Price: $96,200
Median Income: $35,721
South Chicago Heights has 4,143 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 20.1%.
Population: 3,614Unemployment Rate: 13.8%
Median Home Price: $44,200
Median Income: $43,882
Ah, Dixmoor. You rank as the 7th worst place to live around Chicago.
It’s the place with the 24th most out of work residents in the Chicago metro area (13.8%).
8. Chicago Heights
Population: 30,349Unemployment Rate: 16.4%
Median Home Price: $101,100
Median Income: $40,611
Chicago Heights is a city about 22.7 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. Chicago Heights has the 36th most uninsured people, 10th worst incomes, and has the 13th highest unemployment rate (16.4%) in the entire Chicago metro area.
Homes only cost $101,100 for a reason. That’s cheap for Chicago standards.
Population: 2,042Unemployment Rate: 25.1%
Median Home Price: $71,600
Median Income: $33,594
If you absolutely have to live near Chicago, then Phoenix might be a place for you to consider as it’s only the 9th worst Chicago suburb.
About 25.1% of residents are out of work.
Population: 78,349 Unemployment Rate: 11.7%
Median Home Price: $87,100
Median Income: $41,685
Rounding out the ten worst Chicago suburbs to call home is Hammond.
Located 17.8 miles outside the city, Hammonds is a real pit when you look at the data. Its residents have the 34th highest unemployment rate (11.7%), 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 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.
For more Illinois reading , check out:
- These Are The 10 Safest Places In Illinois
- These Are The 10 Most Boring Cities In Illinois
- These Are The 10 Snobbiest Places In Illinois