At Apartment List, our goal is to help you find a home. That’s why we dug into the data last month to identify the 100 Best Cities for Families nationwide, and that’s why we’re following it up now with a look at the top five cities in Illinois.
We used the same methodology as the national list. Our analysis centered on four factors that our research has identified as the most important to families:
Safety (35%): We ranked cities by the number of violent crimes and property crimes per 100,000 residents. Source: FBI statistics.
Housing Cost (30%): To rank cities on housing cost, we calculated the percentage of the average income required to rent the average 2 bedroom apartment. Sources: Apartment List, American Community Survey
School Quality (25%): Cities were ranked on high school graduation rate for public school districts based in that city. Comparing schools across different states can be challenging, but high school graduation rate gives a good estimate of overall school quality. Source: Department of Education data.
Child Friendliness (10%): Communities with a greater percentage of children tend to be more child friendly, so we scored cities based on the percentage of the population that’s under 18. Source: American Community Survey
One Illinois city was named third best city in America for families, and a second cracked the top 15. Here’s a deeper look at Illinois’ five most family-friendly cities:
- Naperville: This Chicago suburb ranked No. 1 in Illinois and No. 3 in the nation for families. Naperville was among a handful of cities in America that earned a perfect score for school quality. It also earned high marks for safety—particularly for a city of its size. Though rents are a bit high in this affluent community, averaging $1340 a month for a 2 bedroom, the median income of $108,250 means that rents are only about 15% of the typical household income. Combined, these conditions help Naperville regularly land on national lists of best places to live and retire.
- Wheaton: Coming in at No. 12 on our national list, Wheaton ranks among the safest cities in the country. This city west of Chicago also scored high for school quality, trailing Naperville by just one point. The only factors keeping Wheaton out of a top 10 ranking nationally are slightly lower scores for housing costs and percentage of children. The city’s claim to fame is reportedly having the most churches per capita than anywhere in America, with Wheaton College—a Christian liberal arts school—also located here.
- Elgin: Affordability and safety helped this city 35 miles northwest of Chicago claim the title of third best city in Illinois for families. Rent for a 2 bedroom averages $10 a month below national averages, accounting for 19% of median incomes. And 29% of this fast-growing city’s 110,145 residents are under 18, boosting its score for kid friendliness. Elgin fell short is in school quality, with a lower percentage of its students graduating from high school each year than in Naperville or Wheaton. The city along Fox River celebrates its large Laotian community, and has been sister city to the capital of Laos since 1967.
- Normal: This city in central Illinois scores high for affordability, with rent prices in Normal well below normal. A 2 bedroom here averages just $650, or $300 per month cheaper than the national average. School quality is a bit better here than in Elgin. Normal is also home to Illinois State University, enjoying both the entertainment perks and elevated crime rate that often come with being a college town. There are also fewer children here, with just 18 percent of Normal’s 54,664 residents under 18. But the area boasts some of the best golfing in the nation, and it’s been recognized for being friendly to bicyclists.
- Bloomington: It’s next-door to Normal, tying its neighbor for safety and affordability. And Bloomington actually beat Normal when it comes to being kid friendly, with a higher percentage of young people among its 78,902 residents. School quality took a substantial hit here, though, with a much lower percentage of students graduating high school. Bloomington has a higher median income than Normal, with companies such as State Farm Insurance and Country Financial both headquartered here.
The full list for Illinois can be found below. Be sure to subscribe to Rentonomics to get future updates!
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