The suburbs of Chicago call to all types of people looking to escape city live. Some people would prefer to live in the cities and towns that surround Chicago to avoid all the hustle and bustle.
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 166 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.
What’s the worst suburb of Chicago? Ford Heights ranks as the worst suburb of Chicago for 2023 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.
And remember, there are some good places to live around Chicago too.
Article Table Of Contents
For more Illinois reading, check out:
- Best Places To Live In Illinois
- Cheapest Places To Live In Illinois
- Most Dangerous Cities In Illinois
The 10 Worst Chicago Suburbs To Live For 2023
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. Lake Station
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 1)
Median Income: $50,852 (14th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 17.0% (highest)
Median Home Value: $88,700 (9th lowest)
More on 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 14th lowest in the metro area, where families bring in about $50,852 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. East Chicago
Rank Last Year: 3 (No Change)
Median Income: $37,807 (4th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.2% (42nd highest)
Median Home Value: $76,200 (5th lowest)
More on East Chicago:
Back up the highway we go for the third worst Chicago suburb you can live in. You might have expected to see East Chicago 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.
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 1)
Median Income: $34,085 (lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 12.8% (15th highest)
Median Home Value: $70,600 (3rd lowest)
More on Gary:
If you live in Gary, most likely you struggle to make ends meet every month. It ranks as the lowest Chicago suburb when it comes to residents making money.
Not only that, but this is the 15th worst unemployed suburb you can live in if you choose to live near Chicago. Remember, we looked at 166 cities for this study.
Gary is about 24.1 miles to downtown.
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 4th lowest home values in the metro Chicago area, where the median price is $75,700. To put that into perspective, in Western Springs, the median income is $250,001, which is the best in the area.
Harvey has an unemployment rate of 13.94% which ranks 12th worst.
Dixmoor has 3,036 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 24.802371541501977%.
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 1)
Median Income: $34,760 (2nd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 14.3% (8th highest)
Median Home Value: $85,700 (8th lowest)
More on Robbins: Data
Ah, Robbins. You rank as the 7th worst place to live around Chicago.
It’s the place with the 8th most out of work residents in the Chicago metro area (14.26%).
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 33rd most uninsured people, 22nd worst incomes, and has the 13th highest unemployment rate (13.35%) in the entire Chicago metro area.
Homes only cost $111,900 for a reason. That’s cheap for Chicago standards.
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 2)
Median Income: $50,590 (13th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 8.2% (3highest)
Median Home Value: $148,700 (27th lowest)
More on Whiting:
If you absolutely have to live near Chicago, then Whiting might be a place for you to consider as it’s only the 9th worst Chicago suburb.
About 8.2% of residents are out of work.
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 24th highest unemployment rate (9.96%), and poverty is far above the area average.
Methodology: Determining The Worst Suburbs Around Chicago for 2023
To figure out how bad a Chicago suburb is to live in, we only needed to know what kinds of things people like and then decide what suburbs 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 2017-2021, 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 1,000 people. This left us with a grand total of 166 suburbs to evaluate around Chicago.
We ranked each place with scores from 1 to 166 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.
Summary: The areas around Chicago where the dream is more of a nightmare for 2023
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
For more Illinois reading, check out:
- Best Places To Retire In Illinois
- Richest Cities In Illinois
- Safest Places In Illinois
- Worst Places To Live In Illinois
Detailed List Of The Worst Chicago Suburbs
|12||South Chicago Heights||4,022|
|40||Country Club Hills||16,746|