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Have you heard of Midwestern Hospitality?
Yes, it's a thing. And, yes, it's what makes Illinois one of the best states in the country. Now, if you talk to the flatlanders that call Illinois home, they would definitely agree that their hospitality is gold star worthy. They would also tell you, however, that there a ton of other qualities that make Illinois a state you should call home.
Take for instance the variety of delicacies the state has to offer. There is nothing like a loaded horseshoe or fried tenderloin after a long night of drinking. And you can't visit Chicago without trying Chicago's deep dish pizza. (Illinoisans have deemed it its own food group.) More importantly, if weren't for the Land of Lincoln, we wouldn't have Twinkies; and that, folks, would be a travesty.
When you think of Illinois, it's easy to think that the entire state revolves around Chicago. While that might be the case for most, here at HomeSnacks we know that there are many fantastic smaller places in Illinois that make it the best.
We also know that a Portillos' chili hot dog shouldn't be the only reason to move to the state Chicago calls home. So, we made sure to look at very important factors when determining the best places to call home in the Land of Lincoln -- low cost of living, strong economy, strong job market, and low crime to name a few.
Grab a slice of deep dish pizza and a pop and read on.
The 10 Best Places To Live In Illinois For 2020
- Deerfield (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Western Springs (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Hinsdale (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Lake Bluff (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Winnetka (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Buffalo Grove (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Elburn (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Wilmette (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Clarendon Hills (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- La Grange Park (Photos | Homes For Sale)
What city is the best place to live in Illinois for 2020? Well according to the US Census and FBI data we crunched, Deerfield is the best place to live in Illinois if you care about home values, low crime, and a high quality of life.
While not everyone can afford to live in our top ten best Illinois cities -- they come with a hefty Chicago price tag -- there are other amazing places in Illinois to call home. And lucky for you, we have found them.
If you didn't see your city in the top ten, don't freak out. We analyzed over 328 cities. Read on to see where your city landed and a detailed breakdown of each.
For more Illinois reading, check out:
- Best Counties To Live In Illinois
- Cheapest Places To Live In Illinois
- Best Places To Raise A Family In Illinois
The 10 Best Places To Live In Illinois For 2020
We start our tour of the best places to call home in Illinois with Deerfield, a North Shore suburb of Chicago. Deerfield ranks as the 12th least violent place in the state and has a total crime rate about 70% below the national average.
Deerfield's economy is largely driven by the healthcare industry, as it is home to the headquarters of big name companies like Walgreens, Baxter, and Takeda Pharmaceuticals. If you're working in one of those fields, you should have no trouble locking down a job here. And based on Deerfield's rank as the 13th best-paid populace in the state, with a median household income of $144,229/year, we think you should do pretty well for yourself at that job. And with a sub-3% unemployment rate and poverty level, Deerfield's economy is working at every level. For a village where healthcare looms large, it's not surprising that 98.2% of residents have health insurance, one of the highest rates in Illinois.
If you're planning on moving with your family, or starting a family soon, know that Deerfield's school district is among the best in the state, with GreatSchools awarding a 9/10 score or higher to every single public school in the area. Speaking of education, the local Historic Village is a staple of the Deerfield school experience that's fun for the whole family. But if you're looking for something a tad bit more modern, "The Square" in Deerfield's downtown has everything you need to keep your shopaholism satisfied.
Located between Chicago and Naperville, Western Springs is the 2nd best place to live in Illinois. Western Springs' poverty level of 3.2% and unemployment rate of 2.4% are among the most impressive in the state. It's not like people are just floating by here either, because at $161,563/year, Western Springs enjoys the 9th highest median household income statewide. And if you enjoy a side of culture with your cash, the Theatre of Western Springs is always putting on shows and plays.
Western Springs is also known for its excellent schools and safe streets. In fact, there were only 2 violent crimes committed in Western Springs in 2020, which gives Western Springs the 8th lowest rate in Illinois. Even though violence is quite unlikely, Western Springs residents are prepared if it does come. That's because 99.5% of folks in Western Springs have health insurance, which is the highest rate in Illinois.
We're sticking around western Chi-Town suburbs for our 3rd best place to call home in Illinois, the village of Hinsdale. People in Hinsdale know the importance of education, from start to finish. All the elementary schools in Hinsdale received a score of 9/10 from GreatSchools, and both the local middle school and high school got a perfect 10/10. That educational excellence is just one of the reasons we named Hinsdale as the best family city in Illinois. Seeing as over 40% of Hinsdale's population has a master's degree or higher, we think the success of early education carries over nicely into success later in life.
After all, Hinsdale does have the 4th highest median household income in the state, $188,684/year. Which comes in handy when you've also got the 3rd priciest homes. And since smart, moneyed individuals rarely feel the need to engage in criminal activity, Hinsdale's crime rate being about 80% below the national average makes a lot of sense.
If you're craving a bit more action, though, Chicago's downtown is just 20-minute train ride away, so you can be walking The Magnificent Mile any time you like.
Lake Bluff is a village of 5,612 on the North Shore of Lake Michigan. At 46, Lake Bluff is the oldest place on this list, so keep that in mind if the relative age of your neighbors is a priority for you. Around 80% of adults in Lake Bluff have a college degree, and about half of those people have a master's degree or higher. Which helps explain why, at 1.7%, Lake Bluff has the 3rd lowest poverty level in Illinois. It's also one of the reasons why Lake Bluff has the 8th highest median household income in the state, at $162,109/year.
Lake Bluff also only experienced 1 violent crimes in 2020, the 10th lowest rate in Illinois. So you don't have to worry about pickpockets or hooligans when you go to catch a show on the village green for the Bluffina Summer Concert Series.
We know we've been touting the wealth of some of the other communities on this list, but none of them holds a candle to Winnetka. Homes in Winnetka go for around $1,076,000, the 1st costliest in the state. If you want to buy the Home Alone house, it might set you back a bit more. That's okay though, because Winnetka also has the highest median household income statewide at $220,577/year. With these kind of numbers, it's not hard to see why we named Winnetka one of the richest places in Illinois.
Folks in Winnetka didn't coincidentally end up in big homes with big salaries. Over 45% of residents have a master's degree, PhD, or professional degree, so you're looking at the result of years of hard work here. And it's paid off for the whole community, which enjoys an unemployment rate and poverty level under 3%. Residents can spend their hard-earned free time fishing, kayaking, or hiking at Skokie Lagoons.
In what's becoming a pattern, Buffalo Grove is yet another Chicago suburb to rank among the best places to live in Chicago. At 41,329, Buffalo Grove is the most populous place to make this list, so you won't have to worry about being far from the action here. Especially with Fine Art Festival and the Buffalo Grove Days popping off every summer.
You won't have to worry about crime here either, because Buffalo Grove experienced the 9th lowest amount of violent crime per capita in Illinois and had a total crime rate about 75% below the national average. And if you've got kiddos, you can feel confident sending them through one of the best educational systems in the state.
With a median household income of $111,435/year and a median home price of $324,600, Buffalo Grove has the second lowest cost of living of places we're covering on this list.
An impressive 2.5% unemployment rate means that all of Elburn's residents are able to enjoy the good life. Elburn residents also have the 8th highest rate of health insurance coverage in the state at 98.7%. At 33, Elburn is the youngest place we'll be covering, so if being part a hip, vibrant community is your priority, you may consider bumping Elburn up a couple spots on this list. Homes are also cheaper here than anywhere on this list at $266,500, so it's a great place to start out. And combined with the median household income of $108,500/year, Elburn has the lowest cost of living of places listed here.
Wilmette is a northern suburb of Chicago with a population of 27,419. Wilmette consistently ranks among the top in the state for highest education expenditures per student. All that spending really pays off, because GreatSchools gave local schools a 9.5/10 average score. Apparently, big spending on education works to instill a life-long love of learning in Wilmette, because nearly 50% of residents have a master's degree or higher.
All that schooling translates into the 10th highest median household income in Illinois at $154,738/year. Which is kind of necessary when you're also paying the 6th highest price for a home in the state at $680,700.
Being so close to Lake Michigan comes with other advantages that statistics can't capture. Like having the beach at Gillson Park right in your neighborhood.
Next up is Clarendon Hills, a neighbor of Hinsdale and a southwestern suburb of Chicago. Clarendon Hills has an insanely low unemployment rate of 1.9%, the 6th lowest in Illinois. It also has a 10/10 SnackAbility score for education and a 9/10 for safety. That's thanks to Clarendon Hills' highly-rated schools and having the 23rd lowest rate of crime statewide.
The median household income in Clarendon Hills is $126,500/year, the 18th highest in Illinois. However, with home prices at $561,700, Clarendon Hills is one of the least affordable spots on this list. At least you won't have to pay big for access to family-friendly activities, because Clarendon Hills has a different park for every day of the week.
La Grange Park is our final Cook County representative on this list, meaning more than half the best places to live in Illinois can be found in this county. LGP is the most densely populated place on this list and the 22nd most densely populated in the state, so if you like the hustle and bustle, La Grange Park might just be your jam. And it's not like all this activity comes with crime, because La Grange Park has the 16th lowest crime rate in Illinois, about 80% lower than the statewide average.
The fact that La Grange Park has the lowest median household income on this list at $95,466/year should give you a fair idea of the commonality between places on this list; namely, wealth. In any case, we think it's pretty cool that, from La Grange Park, you can be exploring peaceful and undisturbed nature along the Salt Creek Trail System or find yourself in a crowd of 40,000 at Wrigley Field within a half hour.
Mapping The Best And Worst Places To Live in Illinois
The Pressing Question: Size
Before we even started to collect data, we had to answer a tough question: Is it fair to pit Springfield with a population of 116,459 against places with a population of 18?
We firmly decided no, that just isn't fair.
So to create our ranking, we broke places to live into three tiers:
- Cities -- Populations over 5,000
- Towns -- Populations between 1,000 and 5,000
- Small Towns -- Populations below 1,000
This left us with 328 cities, 376 towns, and 620 small towns.
We then decided, no matter how much anyone loves their town, the best cities to live in Illinois have more of everything and therefore you need to have over 5,000 people to truly be 'the best'.
You can see those two top tens at the bottom of the post.
How We Calculated The Best Cities To Live In Illinois
Now that we had our set of cities, it was time to rank them.
We ranked each place in Illinois across a number of criteria from one to 328, with one being the best.
We then took the average rank across all criteria, with the city posting the lowest overall score being crowned the winner of the title "Best Place To Live In Illinois".
The criteria we looked at were:
- Median Home Values
- Median Income
- Population Density (Higher better)
- Unemployment Rate
- Commute Time
- Education Levels
- Health Insurance Coverage
- Poverty rates
After the dust settled, what was the best place to live in Illinois? That would be Deerfield.
If your city or town isn't among the top 10, jump down to the bottom of the post to see a detailed chart of the best places in Illinois.
Otherwise, buckle up for a ride down good living lane with Deerfield at the end of the cul-de-sac.
Wrapping Up The Best Places When It Comes To Living In Illinois
If you're looking at areas in Illinois with the best economic situations, where there's lower than average crime, and a lot to do, this is an accurate list.
Deerfield made a strong showing to take in the overall number one spot for the best place to live in Illinois for 2020.
Best Towns To Live In Illinois
- Leland Grove (Pop. 1,625)
- Dunlap (Pop. 1,351)
- St. Joseph (Pop. 4,109)
- Germantown Hills (Pop. 3,491)
- Hudson (Pop. 1,704)
- Rochester (Pop. 3,687)
- Sherman (Pop. 4,404)
- Philo (Pop. 1,627)
- Kenilworth (Pop. 2,613)
- Forsyth (Pop. 3,421)
Best Small Towns To Live In Illinois
- Irwin (Pop. 79)
- Georgetown (Pop. 516)
- Indian Creek (Pop. 768)
- Ogden (Pop. 732)
- Bartelso (Pop. 619)
- Spaulding (Pop. 766)
- Downs (Pop. 971)
- Pesotum (Pop. 514)
- Goodfield (Pop. 931)
- McNabb (Pop. 305)
If you're curious enough, here are the worst places to live in Illinois according to the data:
- Riverdale (Pop. 12,786)
- Cahokia (Pop. 14,271)
- Centreville (Pop. 5,059)
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