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The best and worst counties to live in

Tuesday, Aug 12, 2014

* Reboot

The New York Times recently published an interactive map citing the hardest places to live in the U.S.

The article ranks all 3,135 U.S. counties on ease of life based on the following factors: median household income, education, unemployment rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity rate.

* The 25 “best” Illinois counties…


* The 25 “worst” Illinois counties…


And if Illinois county geography isn’t your strong point, click here for the respective lists.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Old Shepherd - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 12:52 pm:

    I guess “best” and “worst” is in the eye of the beholder.

  2. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 1:03 pm:

    Yeah - New York Times, Madison County is a garden spot. Especially when the springtime flowers poke their beautiful heads up through the abandoned buildings and baby birds take flight over downtown East St. Louis.

  3. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 1:04 pm:

    VMan, East St. Louis is in St. Clair County.

    Much of Madison County really is quite nice.

  4. - titan - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 1:08 pm:

    VanillaMan - Madison isn’t on either list

  5. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 1:09 pm:

    I better check that county geography map!

  6. - RMW Stanford - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 1:11 pm:

    Grew up in the 15th best and now live in the 7th best

  7. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 1:11 pm:

    Kankakee County checks in at #21. Only four other Illinois counties are worse places to live.

    I’ve always said Kankakee is a very good place to be from, and it’s a horrible place to be going.

  8. - Illiana - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 1:11 pm:

    So 52 of 102 counties rank in the top half nationally. Sounds about right.

    VanillaMan, you are aware that East St. Louis is in St. Clair County right? In addition, Madison & St. Clair are on neither the top or bottom 25, so I am not sure why you mentioned it. Frankly, I am not surprised to see 3 St. Louis metro counties in the top 25 & none in the bottom 25, even if there are some struggling communities.

  9. - Illiana - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 1:12 pm:


    I apologize if my comment came out snarky.

  10. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 1:26 pm:

    Lake County is #3? That number may apply to the North Shore and a couple of other communities, not much else.

  11. - Norseman - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 1:35 pm:

    The high property tax collar counties are ranked pretty high on the “‘best’ Illinois counties” list. Shows that there’s more to quality of life than a concern about property taxes.

  12. - Illiana - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 1:40 pm:

    I don’t know that there are too many surprises. The top 25 contains a lot of suburban counties, not just in Chicagoland, but also Marshall, Tazewell, Menard, Henry, Woodford, Monroe, Washington, Clinton, Piatt, Boone, Ogle along with a few central cities McLean, Sangamon, & Champaign. By my count only 3 non-metropolitan made the top 25: Adams (Quincy), Effingham, & JoDaviess (Galena).

    By comparison, the bottom 25 is heavily weighted toward non-metropolitan counties with the exceptions being Vermillon (Danville), Peoria, Alexander (technically considered part of the Cape Girardeau metro area), & Kankakee.

  13. - Ray del Camino - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 1:43 pm:

    Poor old SO IL.

  14. - Anonymoiis - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 1:50 pm:

    Does any of this take into account cost of living?

  15. - Chi - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 1:51 pm:

    If it wasn’t for Chicagoland dragging down the rest of the state, all those So IL counties would be in the top 25 instead, right? :)

  16. - BIG R. Ph. - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 2:29 pm:

    I guess it depends on whether or not you like to deer hunt. I would suppose that the NYT does not consider that a desirable lifestyle.

  17. - A guy... - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 2:32 pm:

    Yikes. I live in the #1 ranked county and it still ain’t easy. But I do love DuPage among many others.

  18. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 2:39 pm:

    Apparently traffic jams don’t count.

  19. - So what? - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 2:40 pm:

    47th Ward-
    I would think that 21st means 21st from the bottom not the other way around. Kankakee has had its struggles but the worst is yet to come. The RTA removing their special taxing set-ups is worse for government there than any employer moving out of the County.

  20. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 2:43 pm:

    Kendall County.

    We have it all…

    Was one of the fastest growing counties in America at one point before the housing bubble.

  21. - cover - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 2:44 pm:

    Illiana, Peoria County isn’t on either list. Peoria County’s 3 eastern neighbor counties and McLean are on the “best” list, while its western neighbors Knox and Fulton are on the “worst”.

  22. - Stooges - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 2:52 pm:

    Where the heck you from Iliana? Henry county is hardly a suburb to anything, and its a stretch to consider Washington and Clinton as suburban to STL. Neither is Ogle suburban to Rockford. Have you been to any of those places?

    Also, Peoria is not in the bottom 25, and Cape Girardeau has minimal influence on Alexander county.

    Many of the better counties have major universities, which helps with median income, unemployment and education.

  23. - k3 - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 2:58 pm:

    Glad you’re not around anymore, 47th Ward! Lots of positive things are happening in Kankakee County and in fact, employers are making major investments in the county and we have the fastest job growth in the state. The idea that it would be better to live in Jasper, Coles or Effingham County than in Kankakee is ridiculous. It just proves that you can make a list based off any statistics you want. What about property values, cost of living or proximity to major metropolitan areas? What about arts and entertainment, an area we are seeing a lot of growth in? Bogus.

  24. - logic not emotion - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 3:00 pm:

    I haven’t checked; but I bet it is similar to the report / rating.

    Economic factors play a major role.

  25. - logic not emotion - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 3:03 pm:

    k3: I agree that most lists are distorted; but I’ve spent a little time in Kankakee and in those other counties. I haven’t checked; but how does the crime rate there compare to Jasper, Coles or Effingham?

  26. - k3 - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 3:09 pm:

    Countywide, the crime rate would likely be average (I can’t find stats on overall crime). City of Kankakee is higher, but the crime rate is still the lowest it’s been since the 70’s. And I agree the list mirrors the County Health rankings and we do have underserved communities and that’s a challenge. But I would argue the resources we have for people in poverty are far greater than any rural county to our south, but that’s not part of the survey. And I will concede we need to do better and collaborating to lift families out of poverty.

  27. - Diogenes in DuPage - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 3:19 pm:

    Given the factors listed, there are not too many surprises on the state or national maps.

  28. - southwest - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 3:34 pm:

    I have spent many years in both the #1 and the #6 best counties - DuPage is very much inferior to Monroe - in my humble and biased opinion!

  29. - ah HA - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 3:36 pm:

    Sangamon County easy to live in?? bahhh… I think Cook County is the worst county to live in.

  30. - efudd - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 3:38 pm:

    Iliana-I live in Union county. Although one passes through Alexander county to get to Cape, no one, in either Missouri or Illinois, consider it a part of “metro” Cape Girardeau. To the post, I grew up in Kankakee county, if southern Illinois is considered the worst places to live, I respectfully disagree.

  31. - Federalist - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 3:43 pm:

    These type of rankings are constantly being published by all types of groups/organizations.

    They have their own criteria and perhaps their own agenda.

    Think for yourself and don’t pay too much attention to them.

  32. - Anon - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 3:55 pm:

    Is it a coincidence that the worst counties are all south of I-80? Is that Chicago’s fault?

  33. - Illiana - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 4:13 pm:


    Here is the official map of Metropolitan & Micropolitan Areas of the United States

  34. - Illiana - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 4:14 pm:

    And yes I see that I should have seen it as Fulton in the bottom 25, not Peoria

  35. - Illiana - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 4:29 pm:

    It appears that Washington County is not part of Greater St. Louis, but Clinton County is. Henry County is official part of the Quad Cities metro area. Ogle County is not part of suburban Rockford, so I erred there. Alexander County is officially part of the Cape Girardeau metro area.

    So that leaves 5 non-metropolitan counites in the top 25 (Adams, Effingham, JoDaviess, Ogle, & Washington) & only 3 metropolitan counties in the bottom 25 (Vermillion, Kankakee, & Alexander).

  36. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 5:12 pm:

    –I think Cook County is the worst county to live in. –

    Yeah, that’s why it has the largest population of any county. The mean streets of Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, Wilmette, Glenview, River Forest, etc. are rough.

  37. - A guy... - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 5:59 pm:

    Don’t forget Oak Park, Orland Park, Barrington, Palatine, Schaumburg, and a bunch of other great places. And don’t leave out Beverly, Sauganash or a ton of great city neighborhoods. There’s lots right with Cook County.

  38. - drew - Tuesday, Aug 12, 14 @ 7:11 pm:

    It seems like the median income should be adjusted for cost of living, but other than that the criteria seem pretty objective.

  39. - Down Here - Wednesday, Aug 13, 14 @ 7:51 am:

    Washington and Clinton Counties are hardly suburban. Maybe you could consider New Baden, which straddles the Clinton/St. Clair County line as exurban. Aside from that, purely rural. Carlyle and Nashville are both about 50 miles from St. Louis, but there are a lot of farm fields in between.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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