The Pros and Cons of Living in Illinois

Living in Illinois can be exciting, provided that you’re able to afford the higher taxes and find a job in a suffering job market.
Written by Liz Jenson
Reviewed by Brittni Brinn
From the beautiful natural areas to the delicious food, Illinois has a lot to offer its residents—but there are a few reasons to avoid moving to Illinois, too.
If you’re considering making the leap and moving to Illinois, you’re probably making a pros and cons list of your very own. Here are some of our pros and cons to life in Illinois, straight from a Chicago resident! Let’s get started.

Pro: A low cost of living

Overall, living in Illinois is relatively cheap. While living in Chicago is more expensive, you’ll find that the cost of living slowly decreases as you get further away from the city
Overall, Illinoisians need to make about $30,000 per year to afford living in the state. It’s probably comforting to hear that the average salary in Illinois is $54,683 per year, so it’s quite likely that you’ll make enough to live well!

Con: Taxes are higher

Unfortunately, Illinois is also known for its high property taxes, which is especially important to keep in mind if you plan on
buying a house in Illinois
. In fact, Illinois has one of the highest property tax rates in the country with a current effective tax rate of 2.16%.
Property taxes aren’t the only type of taxes with higher-than-average rates—income taxes hit residents pretty hard, too. In some areas of the state, the local and state tax rates combine to an effective tax rate of over 15% of any individual’s income.
Overall, the Land of Lincoln is notorious for charging residents a lot of money to live and work within Illinois, so be prepared to pay a little more if you’d like to move here!
MORE: The best places to live in Illinois
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Pro: Sports are easy to come by

Whether you root for the White Sox or the Chicago Cubs, we won’t judge—but you have to admit, Illinois has a lot of sports teams to choose from! Whether you’re a fan of baseball, hockey, basketball, or football, you’ll have a local team to root for if you live in Illinois. You’ll also have tons of opportunities to go to various games, hit up a sports bar, and just generally rep your favorite Illinois team!

Con: The job market isn’t great

Many Illinois job-seekers claim that it’s much easier to find a job within the state now than it was during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as of summer 2022, the unemployment rate in Illinois was 4.5%, making it one of the highest in the nation and certainly one of the highest in the midwest.
This is partially due to the fact that the United States officially entered an economic recession in mid-2022, but the pattern is definitely concerning and something to monitor—particularly if you don’t already have a job lined up.

Pro: You’ll be close to Chicago

Depending on which part of Illinois you decide to move to, you may find yourself closer to one of the largest cities in the United States: Chicago. This beautiful city offers tons of great entertainment options, of course, but it’s also great for those who love to travel.
Living close to Chicago also means living close to the O’Hare International Airport, which offers direct flights to tons of domestic and international locations. If you prefer to travel via airplane, you might find this to be a highly advantageous feature of living in Illinois, as you won’t have to make nearly as many connecting flights in order to reach your desired destination.

Con: A higher overall crime rate

Of course, another important factor to consider is Chicago’s high violent crime rate, and how that high crime rate affects the rest of Illinois. As of late 2022, Chicago alone was approaching nearly 600 homicides, and it was estimated that for every 100,000 people, there are 3,926 crimes committed in Chicago a year.
It’s not just Chicago, though—Illinois has a high crime rate as a state, too. In 2022, the state of Illinois as a whole had an estimated 4.3 incidents per 1,000 residents, compared to the 4.0 national average. This is also the second year in a row that violent crime rates have risen within the state of Illinois, and the third year that the state ranked higher than the national average.
Of course, it’s important to note that these statistics are skewed by the high population in the city, so your likelihood of experiencing a violent crime diminishes as you get further away from Chicago. However, when surveyed, just 42% of Illinois residents claimed to feel safe within their state, and 13% had experienced gun violence firsthand.
The bottom Line: you’re statistically more likely to experience violent crime if you move to Illinois—whether you move to Chicago specifically or to another town.

Pro: Lots of great food

When it comes to fine dining, Illinois might not be the first state that comes to mind. However, residents of Illinois love the variety of foods offered within the state, including favorites like:
  • Chicago-style hot dogs, which come with mustard, relish, onion, tomato, pickle, peppers, and celery salt
  • Deep-dish pizza, a Chicago favorite
  • Apple fritters, which are especially good in the fall when the apples are local and fresh
  • Italian roast beef sandwiches, which actually originated in Chicago
  • Pierogies, a type of Polish dumpling that is traditionally served with sauerkraut
  • The Horseshoe Sandwich, an open-faced sandwich made with thick-sliced toasted bread, a hamburger patty or another meat of your choice, french fries, and cheese sauce, originated in Springfield
These are just some of the food options available within the state, and you’ll definitely want more—not to mention all of the great restaurant options featuring nearly every cuisine available in Chicago!

Con: Heavy winters

It may not surprise you that Illinois can have pretty heavy winters, given that it is located in the northern part of the United States. However, certain areas of Illinois get even worse winter weather than others due to something called the lake effect.
The lake effect occurs when cold air from the north moves across the vast, open water of the Great Lakes. As the cold air passes over the comparatively warm lake waters, the moisture and warmth of the lake are transferred into the atmosphere, which creates ice and snow. That ice and snow are carried over land, where it falls to earth and creates a significantly heavier snowstorm than normal weather patterns would produce.
As a result, the parts of Illinois that are close to Lake Michigan—including Chicago—get extremely heavy winters with lots of ice and snow. If you plan to move to northern Illinois, in particular, be sure that you have
a winter emergency car kit
at the ready in case you get caught in a storm!
MORE: How to check for Illinois road closures
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Pro: Beautiful rural and natural areas

When you think of Illinois, you probably think of Chicago first. However, there are tons of really gorgeous natural areas in Illinois, too! 
One of the most famous ones is Garden of the Gods, a national wilderness area located in southern Illinois in Hardin, Pope, Saline, and Gallatin counties. This portion of the Shawnee National Forest is known for its staggeringly beautiful views, dramatic rock formations, and varied flora and fauna. It’s a great day trip, or you can camp and spend multiple days exploring!
If you’re in the northern part of the state, you might consider paying a visit to Starved Rock, located in Oglesby, Illinois. This state park is known for its deep sandstone canyons that are filled with glacial water. There are lots of waterfalls, gorgeous views, and wildlife to be seen. There are also some fun historical facts to be learned at this location!
These are just a couple of the great hiking and outdoor adventure options available in Illinois, so don’t be afraid to check out more parks and recreational areas on your own, too.

Con: Traffic can be hectic, particularly around Chicago

It’s probably no surprise that traffic around Chicago can get downright nasty, particularly around rush hour, but did you know that Illinois is home to four of the top forty bottleneck locations in the United States? These areas are located at:
  • I-290 at I-90 / I-94
  • I-80 at I-94
  • I-90 at I-94 (south)
  • I-90 at I-94 (north)
Each of these locations is known for standstill traffic that can last for hours, slowing down your travel time and making your commute a nightmare. This is certainly a drawback for some potential Illinoisians, especially those considering moving to Chicago.
However, traffic certainly isn’t awful everywhere! Joliet traffic, for example, is almost always pretty mild, and most rural areas won’t see much in the way of bottlenecked traffic. In short, if traffic is a dealbreaker, choose a part of Illinois where road congestion won’t be an issue.

Pro: Arts and entertainment opportunities

If you live anywhere near Chicago, Springfield, Joliet, or any other large city in Illinois, you may be surprised by all of the arts and entertainment options available to you. In Chicago, in particular, you’ll have access to things like concerts, art shows, theater productions, outdoor events, pop-up markets, symphonies, dance productions, museums, conservatories, and more!
Even outside of the city, though, you’ll be able to find arts and culture features without much trouble. Southern Illinois, for example, is known for its antebellum architecture, which can be found in tiny towns throughout the southern half of the state.
Southern Illinois is also known for its growing wine business. There are a total of eleven wineries on the southern Illinois winery trail, which is called the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, and the state as a whole has a total of 165 wineries and tasting rooms! 

The verdict: Is Illinois a good state to live in?

If you’re hoping for a state that will continue to surprise you, Illinois is a great option. From outdoor adventuring opportunities to arts and entertainment to tons of great food, you definitely won’t be bored if you continue to explore the state.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that Illinois is an economically difficult state to live in. You’ll find that it’s difficult to get a job, and taxes of all kinds are higher in Illinois than in other nearby states. Financially, this move might be a strain, especially if you don’t have a job lined up for you in your new prospective hometown.
Still, if you’re prepared, Illinois has a lot to offer—and a lot to give.
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