This city is the economic and cultural heart of the American Midwest, and is home to a population of more than 2,693,976 people. In fact, this makes it the most populous city in the region as well as the fifth most populous on the entire continent.
In this guide, we will help you visualize what it would be like to live in Chicago or one of the surrounding neighborhoods. We will go over the cost of living, employment opportunities, education, transportation, leisure and more.
Let’s start out by talking about the cost of living in Chicago. To help us understand how the cost of living compares to that in other regions, we will turn to “Sperling’s Best Places”: https://www.bestplaces.net/city/illinois/chicago.
This website rates cost of living on a scale where the US average is 100. Ratings above 100 represent a higher than average cost of living, while ratings below 100 represent a lower than average cost of living.
On that scale, Chicago rates a score of 106.9, while Illinois rates 93.4.
That means that while it is more expensive to live in Chicago than it is to live in Illinois on average, it is still only marginally more expensive than the cost of living on average nationwide. Indeed, we can say it is roughly comparable.
Considering that many metropolitan centers are far pricier to live in than the US average, this makes Chicago a very affordable city.
Some costs in Chicago are lower than the nationwide average, including groceries, healthcare expenses, housing, and utilities. Those that are more expensive include transportation and miscellaneous expenses. Transportation accounts for most of the difference.
While we are talking about cost of living, it also makes sense to discuss taxes in Illinois.
IL has a flat tax rate of 4.95%. That is higher than some other states with flat taxes rates, and lower than others.
But it makes it a lot more affordable to live in Chicago, than, say, anywhere in the state of Oregon, where the state tax rate starts at 4.75%, and climbs as high as 9.9%.
The sales tax rate in Illinois is 6.25%.
The Bottom Line: Living in Chicago is quite affordable, especially given that it is a major metropolitan area.
On Sperling’s scale where the US average is 100, the cost of housing in Illinois as a whole is 79.5, while it is 99.1 in Chicago.
Again, that is pretty impressive when you consider that you will be living in a booming metropolitan center.
The median home cost nationwide is $231,200. In Chicago, it is $229,100. So, you will actually be able to save a little bit living here over what you would on average across the US.
Thinking about living elsewhere in Illinois? The median home cost for the state is listed at just $183,700. So, you could save even more money by moving to another IL community.
The Bottom Line: Housing costs in Chicago are comparable to the nationwide average. This is again very affordable in light of the fact that this is a big city.
What kind of money can you earn living in Chicago? For data on income, we will turn to the “US Census”: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/chicagocityillinois.
The median household income for Chicago from the period spanning 2015 through 2019 was $58,247. The per capita income reported for the same period was $37,103. For comparison, the Census also “reported”: https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2020/demo/p60-270.html that the median household income in 2019 nationwide was $68,703.
So, it does seem that earnings potential on average in Chicago is a bit lower than it is nationwide. But again, this is still a much more affordable city to live in when it comes to expenses than many others in the US.
That being said, there are some upsides to Chicago when it comes to career growth potential.
For one thing, this city is considered to have one of the most diverse economies in the country, as reported in the “Chicago Sun-Times”: https://web.archive.org/web/20031129081651/http://www.worldbusinesschicago.com/about/upload/20ChicagoSunTimes6-23-03.pdf.
So, regardless of the industry you are in, you may be able to find opportunities.
For another thing, this metro area has one of the top concentrations of science and engineering jobs. So, if you work in one of those sectors, this may be an especially lucrative place to which to relocate.
The Bottom Line: A diverse economy with a strong emphasis on science and engineering means opportunity for many skilled workers.
Wondering what educational opportunities are like in Chicago for children and adults? Let’s take a look.
Sperling’s reports that there are 869 schools in Chicago, including 608 public schools and 261 private schools. So, that is a large array of options.
Most of the elementary and high schools in Chicago are part of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system.
On average across the US, schools spend $12,383 per student, but schools in Chicago spend $14,559. That is great news, as it means that this city is dedicated to investing in student education.
Chicago also is a great place to be if you are interested in pursuing higher education, or if you have family members who may eventually attend college.
Some top schools in Chicago include the University of Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, DePaul University, Loyola University Chicago, Columbia College Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Chicago.
But there are also many other schools throughout the metro area you can attend. Examples include the Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago, North Park
University, Saint Xavier University, and others.
The Bottom Line: Chicago puts a strong emphasis on education at all levels. It invests in its elementary and secondary school students, and it also is home to a wide assortment of post-secondary educational institutions.
Next, you are probably wondering how you can get around Chicago and what you can expect as far as commute times.
There is no getting around it—one of the few drawbacks of the Chicagoland area is the traffic. Not only is there plenty of local traffic, but there is also a lot of regional traffic that is simply passing through the city on its way to other destinations.
Sperling’s reports that a one-way commute on average in Chicago takes 34.6 minutes. That is significantly longer than the 26.4 minute average nationwide.
So, it is not a surprise that quite a few people in Chicago opt not to drive. You can view some interesting data “here”: https://www.governing.com/archive/car-ownership-numbers-of-vehicles-by-city-map.html on vehicle ownership in various cities.
That site reports that in 2015, 26.5% of Chicago households owned no vehicles. The next year, that percentage increased to 27.5%.
In light of this, other stats from Sperling’s also make sense. The site reports that 49.2% drive cars to work alone, while 7.9% carpool. 4.6% work from home, and 28.2% use mass transportation.
Those percentages have likely altered post-pandemic, but they do emphasize what a big role public transit plays in the lives of Chicago residents.
The body that manages public transit in the city is the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). The subway system is elevated, and is thus referred to as the “L.” Two of the lines, Blue and Red, run 24 hours a day. CTA runs buses as well.
Other transit providers operating in Chicago include Metra, Pace, Amtrak, and Greyhound Lines.
What is also cool is that Lyft operates a bicycle-sharing system called Divvy for the Chicago Department of Transportation. The city also has held an Electric Shared Scooter Pilot Program.
The Bottom Line: There are many ways to get around Chicago. Quite a few residents opt to take advantage of the city’s extensive public transit options.
Sperling’s has a comfort index for climate where the US average is 7, and the highest possible score is 10. On that scale, Chicago receives a 7, meaning that the climate is average in terms of comfort level.
Temperatures during summer can range as high as around 84 degrees Fahrenheit, and in the winter, can drop down to around 19 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can expect around 38 inches of rain each year and about 35 inches of snow each year. So, Chicago features four distinct seasons and plenty of variety.
The Bottom Line: Chicago is average in terms of climate comfort, with lots of variety to enjoy.
One of the best things about living in Chicago is that there is a ton to see and do.
Are you a sports fan? Three separate years, Sporting News called Chicago the “Best Sports City” nationwide. Some of the teams you can follow include the Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Bulls.
If you like shopping, you can visit the iconic State Street and Magnificent Mile shopping districts. You also may enjoy spending time at Navy Pier. Chicago is famous for its restaurants as well, with specialty foods like deep dish pizza and Chicago-style hot dogs.
Popular attractions in Chicago include the Buckingham Fountain, the Willis Tower (Sears Tower), the Chicago Public Library, and Museum Campus.
The Bottom Line: Chicago offers something for everyone to enjoy.
Excited to move to Chicago or one of the surrounding suburbs? MidAmerica Bancorp, Inc. can make your dreams of owning a home in the Chicagoland area or anywhere in Illinois come true. To schedule your consultation now, please give us a call at (708) 237-4050.
MidAmerica Bancorp, Inc. is an Equal Housing Lender. As prohibited by federal law, we do not engage in business practices that discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, because all or part of your income may be derived from any public assistance program, or because you have, in good faith, exercised any right under the Consumer Credit Protection Act. Disclaimer: Programs subject to change without notice. All borrowers must qualify per program guidelines.