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The Best Places to Live for Young Families in Illinois

In Illinois, the northeastern corner of the state drives much of the economy in the Midwest, with more than 20% of the population lives in Chicago alone. But Chicago’s inner core may not be an ideal place to raise a young family. For that, you may be more interested in nearby suburbs, as well as cities in the southern part of the Prairie State that offer more affordable housing, communities full of families with children, short commute times, good schools and high-paying jobs. It’s tough to get all these features in one discrete regional package, but it is possible to find communities that rank highly for many of them. Here is a list that data scientists at LendingTree put together, ranking Illinois communities according to their family-friendly amenities.

Key takeaways

  • Roscoe is the best place to raise a family in Illinois, with a final score of 72.6.
  • Chatham and Western Springs take the second and third spots with final scores of 71.0 and 70.8, respectively.
  • On the other end of the list, we found Sauk Village to be the most challenging place for young families in Illinois, with a final score of 36.5.
  • Riverdale and Dolton finished out the bottom three towns on our list, with final scores of 38.2 and 38.3, respectively.

The top 10 cities to live in Illinois

#1 Roscoe

Lying just south of the Wisconsin border, Roscoe offers a balanced blend of family-friendly features.  While rural itself, the village is located within easy driving distance of cities like Rockford and Elgin. It has also managed to diversify into a wide range of industries, from aviation to medicine. The median household income for families with children here is $98,770, and close to 44% households have children. Another plus: The monthly median housing cost —$1,171— is roughly half of the cost in other top ten cities on our list, like Campton Hills and Deerfield. Roscoe is near the Magic Waters Waterpark.

#2 Chatham

In Chatham, a suburb of Springfield, Illinois’s capital, about one in three residents work in either public administration or health care. Of the top ten cities on this list, Chatham has the shortest average commute time, just 22 minutes. While Chatham is located in an affordable part of the state, it also has the lowest median household income for families with children, just $88,958. Still, the median housing cost for families in Chatham is just $1,162 per month. If you’d like to teach your children about history, nearby Springfield is full of Abraham Lincoln-related historical sites, as well as more than a dozen museums.

#3 Western Springs

Of the top ten cities on our list, Western Springs has the highest median household income for families with children ($201,429), but the median housing cost is also higher, $2,217 monthly. Ninety-five percent of families with children own their home in this family-friendly community that has amenities like a busy local theater group. Western Springs is just a 30-minute drive away to Chicago, with the average commute time of 31 minutes. This suggests parents are finding high-paying jobs in areas closer to home.

#4 Troy

Troy is close to the Missouri border and is actually a suburb of St. Louis, a family-friendly city in its own right. The biggest standout for Troy is its low cost of housing: a mere $1,029 per month, even though the city has a relatively high median household income, $94,046 a year. Still, only 74% of families with children in Troy own their own homes, which is the lowest proportion of any community on our top ten list.

#5 Clarendon Hills

If you’re looking for another Chicago suburb to raise a family, Clarendon Hills may be a good choice. It’s more affordable than Western Springs, as well as neighboring Hinsdale, with the median housing cost for families clocking in at a more reasonable $1,631 per month. Families here earn less, however — $176,406 is the median household income for families with kids. Compared with other communities on this list, Clarendon Hills residents do have a longer commute time, 34 minutes on average, but good schools abound.

#6  Columbia

The western boundary of this St.Louis suburb almost — but not quite — touches the east bank of the Mississippi river. Just like nearby Troy, housing prices in Columbia are among the most reasonable on our list, at a median price of just $1,072 per month. The median household income for families is also a comfortable $104,097. However, unemployment in this community is the highest of all cities on our top ten list, 4.2%. Also, just 37% of households here have children. Still, Columbia offers easy access to parks and biking along the Mississippi, as well as hiking along an old historic railroad bed that winds through town.

#7 Campton Hills

Campton Hills is one of the farthest-ranging Chicago suburbs on our list and during rush hour, it can take more than an hour get to the city, which is 52 miles away. Most Campton Hills residents appear to work closer to home, and even so, the average commute time is still 34 minutes. Median housing costs here are the highest of any of our top ten communities, $2,459 per month. However, nearly every family with children — 95% — owns their own home, and median household income is relatively high, $167,241 a year.

#8 Deerfield

Deerfield offers the advantage of living near Lake Michigan, but without the downtown Chicago price tag. Housing here is relatively pricey — a median cost of $2,402 per month — but household income is slightly higher than in Campton Hills. Families here have plenty of parks and conservation areas for children to explore, as well as quick access to the Chicago Botanic Garden. Ninety percent of families with kids are homeowners in this community.

#9 Montgomery

Montgomery is nestled along the Fox River and is close to both the Raging Waves Waterpark, the largest in Illinois, and the Phillips Park Zoo. You’ll be in good company here since 56% of all households in this distant Chicago suburb also have children. Compared with other cities on our top ten list, the median household income in Montgomery is on the low side, just $90,978 annually. Also, the median housing cost for families is $1,781 per month, which is higher than for five communities on our list. Still, 83% of families with children own their own homes here.

#10 Plainfield

Located just south of Campton Hills and Montgomery, Plainfield is another popular place for children: 56% of Plainfield households have kids. Median household income here is relatively high, $136,091 for families with children. However, Plainfield also has the highest commute time on our list, 37 minutes on average. The median housing cost is also on the high end, $2,134 monthly. Still, 88% of families with children own their own homes. And despite its prairie-evoking name, the town offers visitors access to many water features that include a heron rookery and bikeway along Lake Renwick.

Understanding the rankings

We chose six indicators to rank cities and towns with above 8,551 people in each state for how good they are for young families, which were then scored to create an overall ranking of the best places for young families. The six indicators we used are:

  • Median family income: Money isn’t everything, but a place with high family incomes suggests a place with good job opportunities and a community with more resources.
  • Median monthly housing costs for all households: For families already dealing with new child care expenses, reasonably affordable housing is important.
  • Homeownership rate of families with children: This indicates where homeownership is both more common and perhaps importantly for a family looking to buy, more practical.
  • Unemployment rate of 25- to 44-year-olds: This indicates where the job market is healthy and suggest a higher quality of life, locally. We focus on 25- to 44-year-olds in particular to capture the most common ages for parents of young families.
  • 16- to 19-year-olds not enrolled or graduated from high school: To estimate high school graduation rates and therefore school quality, we calculated the percentage of older teenagers who were not in high school yet had no high school degree. This number is not the actual high school dropout rate, but is well correlated.
  • Average commute time: Shorter commutes mean less stressed workers who have more time to spend with their families

Methodology

Analysts used data from the 2017 5-Year American Community Survey by the U.S. Census.  Each of the six metrics were given a value according to their relative location between the highest and lowest values. The values were then summed and divided by six for an equal weighting. The analysis was limited to Census designated places with populations of at least 8,551.

 

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