These Are The 10 Best Places To Live In Illinois


We used science and data to determine the best places to live in the Prairie State.

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The last time we looked at the state of Illinois, it was a dark, cloudy day. We used science to determine the worst places to live there, and heard back from many of you who failed to agree with our data-driven analysis. That’s never fun.

But today is a much happier day. I am the bearer of good news. We get to talk about the best places to live in your awesome state.

After analyzing 342 of the Prairie State’s most populous cities, we came up with this list as the 10 best places to live in Illinois:

  1. Wilmette (Photos)
  2. Buffalo Grove (Photos)
  3. Highland Park (Photos)
  4. Deerfield (Photos)
  5. Hinsdale (Photos)
  6. Clarendon Hills (Photos)
  7. Northbrook (Photos)
  8. Park Ridge (Photos)
  9. Glenview (Photos)
  10. Elmhurst (Photos)

Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and how your town ranked.

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How do you decide if a place is lousy or not?

In order to rank the best places to live in Illinois, we had to determine what criteria people like or dislike about a place. It isn’t a stretch to assume that people like low crime, solid education, great weather, things to do and a stable economy.

So we scraped the internet for those criteria, and it spit out the answer. Like magic.

How we crunched the numbers

We threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using FBI crime data, the government census, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Sperling’s Best Places, this is the criteria we used:

  • Population Density (The higher the better – meaning there’s lots to do)
  • Lowest Unemployment Rates
  • Adjusted Median Income (Median income adjusted for the cost of living)
  • Low Housing Vacancy Rate
  • Education (High expenditures per student and low Student Teacher Ratio)
  • Short Commute Times
  • Low Crime
  • The best Weather

If you’d like to see the complete list of cities, from best to best, scroll to the bottom of this post to see a link to the entire data set. If you’re wondering where Chicago ended up, it was smack dab in the middle. It’s pretty common that larger cities are in the middle when we run this data.

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1. Wilmette

Source: Wilmette Connect on Facebook

Population: 27,202

The Village of Wilmette has it made. In fact, according to science, it’s by far the best place to live in the state of Illinois.

The unemployment rate is the 8th lowest in the state at 5%, and residents make a pretty penny. Average home incomes are $130,000, and the average cost of a home is $545,000. Which is an indication that lots of people want to live here.

Public school kids get a lot of attention. Students in District 39 get the 5th-highest amount of funding in the state, per student. And the schools are ranked 21st overall for student support.

We’re not the only ones to tout it here. This Chicago suburb on the banks of Lake Michigan was called the 7th-best place to raise kids by BusinessWeek Magazine a while back.

2. Buffalo Grove

Source: Village of Buffalo Grove on Facebook

Population: 41,667

We’re probably going to see a pattern here. The Village of Buffalo Grove, another affluent Chicago suburb, also has great schools, low crime and a low unemployment rate.

There are only five other school districts that spend more per student than the schools in Buffalo Grove. But here’s the kicker: The population here has actually gone down almost 3% in the last 15 years, despite recent gains in real estate prices.

Is it too expensive to live here, or is Buffalo Grove just a hidden gem that’s gone under the radar?

3. Highland Park

Source: City of Highland Park on Facebook

Population: 29,909

There isn’t a city in the state of Illinois that has a lower unemployment rate–4.6%–than Highland Park. And they are solid paying jobs as well. Households here bring in about $115,000 a year in combined income, which means lots of front row seats at the Wrigley.

People here simply have a good life. Many of the houses here are along the North Shore, which means super summers (but lousy winters!) But I’m pretty sure they can afford to keep their homes heated during the nasty months.

If Michael Jordan makes your city his home, then it must rock.

4. Deerfield

Source: Deerfield Police Department on Facebook

Population: 18,542

Just inland from Highland Park is Deerfield, a place where residents earn higher incomes and also enjoy great schools (District 109). Deerfield High School is always atop the state rankings when it comes to academics, and Deerfield is home to several leading technology and medical companies.

The crime rate is actually a lot lower in Deerfield than it is in Highland Park. Statistically, Deerfield is the 21st safest place you can live in Illinois.

Folks who live here get to enjoy “The Square”, which is a large multi-use shopping center in the heart of downtown.

5. Hinsdale

Source: Village of Hinsdale on Facebook

Population: 16,594

Crime is something that doesn’t happen very often in the Village of Hinsdale. Statistically the 30th safest place in the state, there were only two violent crimes in the entire city in 2013. And that might have been a couple of Packer fans who took things too far after a loss.

It’s really beautiful in Hinsdale, and new homes continue to replace older homes. Resident earn $165,000 a year, and homes are valued at more than $700,000. And downtown Chicago is only a 20-minute train ride away.

What else could you possibly want if you’re a midwesterner who likes the city life?

6. Clarendon Hills

Source: The Doings Clarendon Hills on Facebook

Population: 8,434

Crime is even lower in the Village of Clarendon Hills, a tiny little spot right next door to Hinsdale. There was not a single violent crime here in all of 2013. Unbelievably, it’s only the 8th-safest place you can live in Illinois.

The only real downside is affordability. Because the real estate prices are going through the roof, and the cost of living is 40% higher than the rest of the nation, it can be hard for a younger family to afford to live in Clarendon Hills.

7. Northbrook

Source: Northbrook Illinois on Facebook

Population: 33,095

Northbrook is another village on Chicago’s North Shore. The unemployment rate here is 7th-lowest in the entire state at 5%. Other factors that make Northbrook so desirable is the solid education and home prices. Several school districts serve the area, and, combined, the student-teacher ratio is the 8th-lowest in Illinois. That means lots of ‘me’ time for your kids.

Homes are valued at nearly a half million dollars, and parents earn a combined $110,000 a year.

There’s nothing like the American dream.

8. Park Ridge

Source: City of Park Ridge on Facebook

Population: 37,266

Across the board, Park Ridge doesn’t really stand out as being amazing in any category. It’s just generally awesome here, according to science. The only issue residents have to deal with is the noise from nearby O’Hare.

9. Glenview

Village of Glenview on Facebook

Population: 44,478

There isn’t a city in the state with more employed people than the Village of Glenview. At 4.6%, everyone who wants a job can get one. And the residents command high salaries ($100,000 a year combined income), and live in big fancy homes ($447,000 each).

We’re not saying money is why these cities are the ‘best’ in Illinois. What we’re implying is that money means safety and peace of mind. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

10. Elmhurst

Source: Explore Elmhurst on Facebook

Population: 44,285

Elmhurst is another Chicago suburb with a low unemployment rate and where residents earn high salaries.

Said one reviewer on City-Data.com: “ We feel incredibly safe in Elmhurst. The houses and neighborhoods are beautiful, the people are friendly, and it’s wonderful to have such good neighbors. People watch out for each other here, they teach their children to be respectful of others and things.”

Enough said.

There You Have It

If you’re analyzing places in Illinois with the best economic situations, where there’s low crime and there’s not a lot to do, this is an accurate list.

It’s probably not surprising to many in the greater Chicago area that all of the cities to top the best cities to live in Illinois list would be Chicago burbs.

Nothing against small towns with great communities out in the country. It’s just that there’s more to do up there.

Mobile users: Click here to get the complete list of scientific data on the best cities.

Click here to read our analysis on the 10 worst places to live in Illinois.

If you’re curious enough, here are the worst places to live in Illinois, according to science.

  1. Benton (Pop. 7,284)
  2. Danville (Pop. 32,977)
  3. East St. Louis (Pop. 27,616)
  4. Hoopeston (Pop. 5,601)
  5. Kankakee (Pop. 27,560)

Disclaimer: This article is an opinion based on data. It should not be taken as fact.

City Population Worst Score Rank
Wilmette 27,202 31 1
Buffalo Grove 41,667 42.83 2
Highland Park 29,909 48.08 3
Deerfield 18,452 48.58 4
Hinsdale 16,594 51.25 5
Clarendon Hills 8,434 53.33 6
Northbrook 33,095 54.58 7
Park Ridge 37,266 55.25 8
Glenview 44,478 56.92 9
Elmhurst 44,385 57.42 10
Winfield 9,168 58.83 11
Lake Zurich 19,679 63.42 12
Winnetka 12,210 65.92 13
Lake Bluff 6,214 67.25 14
Grandwood Park 5,283 68.42 15
Glen Ellyn 27,503 69.67 16
Arlington Heights 75,221 70.08 17
Wheaton 53,155 70.33 18
Bartlett 41,017 75.67 19
Western Springs 12,853 77.33 20
La Grange 15,563 77.67 21
Lindenhurst 14,415 78.25 22
Vernon Hills 25,144 78.92 23
Mount Prospect 54,144 80 24
Naperville 142,143 80.83 25
Burr Ridge 10,590 80.92 26
Palatine 68,338 80.92 26
Darien 22,163 81.5 28
Hoffman Estates 52,066 82.08 29
Libertyville 20,388 82.75 30
Glencoe 8,728 83.83 31
Lincolnshire 7,228 86.67 32
Hawthorn Woods 7,451 88.58 33
Lisle 22,453 88.83 34
Long Grove 8,031 90.75 35
River Forest 11,174 90.75 35
Chatham 11,807 93.42 37
Roselle 22,814 94.83 38
Evanston 74,619 95.58 39
Gurnee 31,222 95.83 40
Tinley Park 56,340 96.58 41
Barrington 10,739 96.67 42
Morton Grove 23,194 96.92 43
Flossmoor 9,387 97.17 44
Riverside 8,859 97.33 45
Palos Heights 12,446 97.67 46
Carol Stream 39,869 98.5 47
Inverness 7,457 98.75 48
Orland Hills 7,118 99.58 49
Lemont 15,954 101.33 50
Itasca 8,494 101.5 51
Skokie 64,588 101.5 51
Niles 29,720 101.92 53
Villa Park 22,212 102.17 54
Mundelein 31,506 102.42 55
Downers Grove 48,621 102.5 56
Gages Lake 9,736 102.75 57
Lincolnwood 12,538 103.42 58
Elk Grove Village 33,166 103.75 59
Schaumburg 74,276 103.75 59
La Grange Park 13,552 104.33 61
Oak Park 51,781 104.83 62
Orland Park 56,607 105.42 63
Prospect Heights 16,228 106.75 64
Highwood 5,396 106.75 64
Woodridge 32,926 106.92 66
Westmont 25,101 108.33 67
Antioch 14,185 109.33 68
Brookfield 18,812 110.08 69
Cary 18,202 110.33 70
Lombard 43,180 110.42 71
Northfield 5,234 110.83 72
Warrenville 13,346 111 73
Westchester 16,684 111.83 74
Bloomingdale 22,028 111.92 75
Des Plaines 58,302 112.17 76
Streamwood 40,201 113.75 77
Boulder Hill 8,532 114.92 78
Elmwood Park 24,876 115.67 79
Wauconda 12,960 116.92 80
Oak Forest 27,922 117.67 81
Batavia 25,693 117.83 82
Grayslake 20,943 117.92 83
Lake Villa 8,827 118.33 84
Round Lake 17,773 119 85
Spring Grove 5,452 119.83 86
Algonquin 29,924 119.83 86
Geneva 21,588 120.5 88
Wheeling 37,575 121 89
Willow Springs 5,455 121.25 90
Lake In The Hills 28,894 121.83 91
Beach Park 13,482 121.92 92
O’Fallon 28,377 122.92 93
St. Charles 33,046 123.17 94
Wood Dale 13,778 125.08 95
Frankfort Square 9,123 125.75 96
Palos Hills 17,458 126.83 97
Plainfield 39,030 127.25 98
Oak Brook 7,905 128.17 99
Oswego 30,302 129.75 100
Glendale Heights 34,159 130.08 101
Rolling Meadows 23,645 130.58 102
Evergreen Park 19,852 130.58 102
Norridge 14,656 132 104
Hanover Park 37,990 132.33 105
Lake Forest 19,068 132.67 106
South Elgin 21,873 132.83 107
Worth 10,787 133.17 108
Huntley 23,897 133.67 109
Waterloo 9,826 133.67 109
Bolingbrook 73,383 134.58 111
Maryville 7,480 135.42 112
Genoa 5,693 135.5 113
Mokena 18,424 135.75 114
Campton Hills 10,985 135.83 115
Crystal Lake 40,867 136.5 116
Round Lake Park 7,382 136.58 117
Homewood 19,526 136.58 117
Hickory Hills 14,355 137.58 119
Lyons 10,651 137.58 119
Harwood Heights 8,573 139.67 121
Midlothian 14,788 140.33 122
Mahomet 7,230 141.92 123
Franklin Park 18,333 142 124
Sugar Grove 8,831 142.17 125
Winthrop Harbor 6,752 142.25 126
Morton 16,255 142.5 127
Gilberts 6,786 143.5 128
Elburn 5,595 143.67 129
Sycamore 17,505 144.25 130
Washington 15,052 144.25 130
River Grove 10,224 145.67 132
Troy 9,959 146.17 133
Island Lake 8,114 146.33 134
Bensenville 18,480 147.67 135
Shorewood 15,611 147.92 136
Matteson 18,692 149.33 137
Northlake 12,287 149.42 138
New Lenox 24,369 149.92 139
Forest Park 14,194 150.42 140
Berkeley 5,189 150.83 141
Savoy 6,989 151.17 142
Shiloh 12,726 151.42 143
South Holland 21,994 151.42 143
Homer Glen 24,428 151.58 145
Swansea 13,495 151.83 146
Hillside 8,136 152.92 147
Burbank 28,851 153.17 148
Monticello 5,297 153.75 149
Frankfort 17,787 153.92 150
Park City 7,383 154.92 151
Lockport 24,672 155.83 152
West Chicago 27,079 156.5 153
Edwardsville 24,093 156.75 154
Stickney 6,731 156.75 154
Johnsburg 6,325 157.17 156
Countryside 5,905 157.25 157
Bloomington 76,527 157.5 158
Richton Park 13,568 158.58 159
North Aurora 16,231 159 160
Glenwood 9,033 159.33 161
Schiller Park 11,782 160.5 162
Oak Lawn 56,524 160.5 162
Country Club Hills 16,540 161.25 164
Sandwich 7,563 161.42 165
Crestwood 10,951 161.92 166
Bridgeview 16,394 162.42 167
Alsip 19,264 162.58 168
West Dundee 7,307 163 169
Summit 11,166 163.67 170
Glen Carbon 13,129 164.42 171
Yorkville 17,055 164.83 172
Bethalto 9,506 165.25 173
Broadview 7,938 166 174
Melrose Park 25,241 166 174
Normal 52,986 166.92 176
Columbia 9,687 167.25 177
Chicago Ridge 14,303 167.33 178
Mascoutah 7,578 168.42 179
Berwyn 56,376 168.5 180
Channahon 12,377 168.75 181
Champaign 81,083 168.83 182
Bellwood 19,105 169.17 183
Hampshire 6,174 169.33 184
Eureka 5,421 169.33 184
Lakemoor 6,415 171.83 186
Round Lake Beach 28,133 172.25 187
Justice 12,877 172.58 188
Calumet Park 7,913 172.75 189
Mchenry 26,862 173.5 190
Romeoville 39,175 173.75 191
Montgomery 18,123 175.67 192
Aurora 196,569 176.17 193
North Riverside 6,920 176.92 194
Hazel Crest 14,341 177.83 195
Addison 36,977 178.25 196
Plano 10,602 178.33 197
Godfrey 17,941 178.42 198
Dekalb 44,340 178.5 199
Manhattan 6,456 178.75 200
Lynwood 9,042 180.08 201
Lansing 28,270 180.5 202
Marengo 7,675 180.58 203
Geneseo 6,604 181.92 204
Minooka 10,548 183.25 205
Highland 9,434 183.25 205
Monee 5,099 183.42 207
Woodstock 24,781 184.17 208
Fairview Heights 16,838 186.75 209
Dolton 23,230 189.08 210
Posen 5,975 189.83 211
Carmi 5,351 191.25 212
Mount Zion 5,703 191.58 213
Chester 8,523 191.92 214
Greenville 6,941 192.08 215
Moline 43,390 193.67 216
Springfield 115,982 193.75 217
Manteno 9,253 194.58 218
Macomb 19,260 195.17 219
Pontoon Beach 5,790 195.75 220
Urbana 41,299 196 221
Carpentersville 37,758 196.17 222
Blue Island 23,457 196.5 223
Cicero 83,756 196.5 223
Quincy 40,647 196.67 225
Fox Lake 10,768 196.83 226
Rockton 7,370 198 227
Wilmington 5,918 198.33 228
Charleston 21,952 199.83 229
Park Forest 22,424 200.58 230
Braidwood 6,047 200.92 231
Maywood 24,177 203.08 232
Chicago 2,702,471 203.5 233
Sumner 5,073 206.17 234
Bourbonnais 18,582 206.75 235
Joliet 147,098 209.08 236
Collinsville 25,370 209.25 237
Sauk Village 10,473 209.42 238
Colona 5,013 210.33 239
East Peoria 23,321 211.67 240
Crete 8,336 211.83 241
North Chicago 31,677 212.5 242
Mattoon 18,162 212.75 243
Chillicothe 6,139 212.75 243
Carbondale 25,961 213 245
Rantoul 12,880 213.08 246
Markham 12,514 214 247
Wood River 10,643 215.42 248
Harvard 9,172 215.83 249
Ottawa 19,258 215.92 250
Elgin 109,513 216 251
Carterville 5,485 216.5 252
Watseka 5,630 216.5 252
Lincoln 14,259 216.75 254
Silvis 7,474 217.25 255
Steger 9,629 217.25 255
Jacksonville 19,401 217.58 257
Mount Carmel 7,276 218.58 258
Pinckneyville 5,631 219 259
Rock Falls 9,075 219.08 260
Peru 10,189 219.17 261
Monmouth 9,659 219.17 261
Jerseyville 8,833 219.25 263
Effingham 12,297 219.83 264
Clinton 7,007 220.67 265
Carlinville 5,799 221.92 266
Belleville 44,118 222.33 267
Calumet City 37,070 222.5 268
Robbins 5,132 223.42 269
Rock Island 38,808 223.83 270
Zion 24,400 223.92 271
Crest Hill 20,724 224.42 272
Roscoe 10,679 225 273
Spring Valley 5,530 225.25 274
Pontiac 12,210 225.92 275
Sterling 15,367 226 276
Poplar Grove 5,879 226.17 277
East Moline 21,585 227.08 278
Creve Coeur 5,460 227.17 279
Shelbyville 5,267 227.42 280
Riverdale 13,552 227.5 281
Mendota 7,138 228.08 282
Morris 13,896 228.25 283
Paris 8,896 228.75 284
Coal City 5,346 229.42 285
Milan 5,089 230.92 286
Lasalle 9,574 231.75 287
Dixon 15,332 231.75 287
Beardstown 6,193 232.08 289
Pana 5,850 233.42 290
Streator 13,068 233.67 291
Machesney Park 23,231 233.67 291
Chicago Heights 30,328 233.83 293
Waukegan 88,982 234 294
Bartonville 6,448 234.42 295
Belvidere 25,544 234.75 296
Peoria Heights 6,216 234.92 297
Robinson 7,656 235.08 298
Peoria 114,754 235.75 299
Murphysboro 8,166 236 300
Kewanee 12,903 236.5 301
Pekin 33,700 237.92 302
Marion 17,198 239.42 303
Freeport 25,529 240.17 304
Herrin 12,524 241.75 305
Princeton 7,831 242.33 306
Fairfield 5,285 244.17 307
East Alton 6,309 246.25 308
Harvey 24,959 246.33 309
Bradley 15,777 247.33 310
Canton 14,699 247.5 311
Mount Vernon 15,051 248.42 312
Rochelle 9,578 252.25 313
South Beloit 7,917 253.17 314
Galesburg 32,038 253.83 315
Taylorville 11,768 254.58 316
Marseilles 5,022 255.67 317
Loves Park 23,968 255.75 318
Hillsboro 7,363 257.08 319
Granite City 29,916 260.17 320
Du Quoin 6,089 261.08 321
Harrisburg 8,962 264.42 322
Metropolis 6,537 264.75 323
Cahokia 15,169 266 324
Olney 9,032 266.08 325
Vandalia 6,096 266.42 326
Flora 5,018 268.5 327
Centralia 13,019 268.83 328
Centreville 5,306 269.92 329
University Park 7,034 274.42 330
Rockford 152,948 278.17 331
Decatur 76,091 281.08 332
Salem 7,407 286.58 333
Alton 27,868 288.17 334
Litchfield 7,086 290.83 335
West Frankfort 8,394 291.42 336
East St. Louis 27,116 291.75 337
Kankakee 27,560 291.92 338
Hoopeston 5,601 295.17 339
Danville 32,977 295.58 340
Benton 7,284 306.5 341

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3 thoughts on “These Are The 10 Best Places To Live In Illinois

  1. I read both articles, Best and Worst places to live in IL. Your data just confirms what Illinoisans already know. All the money and opportunities are poured into Chicago. There are concessions for their counties/region. Those living downstate pay lots of taxes and get no real benefit. It’s ridiculous, you should do another study on the huge exodus of people leaving IL for greener grass (and more green in their wallets) in states like NC and even neighboring MO.

  2. Well, it certainly is an interesting way of calculating things. I’m sure the computer did not take into account why Clarendon Hills was actually able to be ranked so high. The reason is that property values in Hinsdale and Oakbrook are so high now that many have moved to Clarendon Hills and/or the north part of Burr Ridge. Hinsdale should really be number 2 behind Wilmette only because of Wilmette’s size. I mean, seriously, your picture for Clarendon Hills is one of Hinsdale Central, which is located on the south side of Hinsdale!

  3. You sure missed a few. What about Indian Head Trails, Willowbrook and Burr Ridge, which is pricey and next door to Hinsdale?

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