Profile: Chicago, Illinois

Take a quick look at Chicago, the third largest city in the United States.
Downtown Chicago

Downtown Chicago

By: Sabrina Wu
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Population: 3 million

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-6

Major Airport: O'Hare International Airport, Midway International Airport

Employers With a Major Presence Here: Boeing, McDonald’s, Sara Lee, Sears, Tribune Company, Leo Burnett

Its award-winning skyline and location next to 26 miles of lakefront create a beautiful setting for a city with world-class shopping, dining and culture. Within the city’s more than 100 neighborhoods lie some of the most prominent schools in the country and some of the world’s most successful businesses. Some of Chicago’s suburbs are rated among the country’s best places to live.

The northern suburbs are generally considered the elite of Chicago’s neighboring communities and tend to attract well-heeled residents to its exclusive neighborhoods. Lake Forest, for example, is one of the largest communities on the prestigious North Shore with 20,000 residents. It’s a major business center with several national and multinational corporate headquarters located within or adjacent to the city limits. Its residents had a median household income of $136,462 in 2006.

The western suburbs contain many affluent areas in addition to more affordable options. Naperville, a popular western suburb, is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. Ranked consistently as one of the top communities in the country to live, raise children and retire, Naperville boasts a lower unemployment rate than the state’s average. Its residents had a median household income of $88,771 in 2006.

The southern suburbs tend to be less expensive. Residents generally have lower median incomes, and the cost of living is lower. The southwest suburb of Joliet is one of the fastest growing cities in Illinois and in the United States. New housing starts have averaged more than 1,300 a year since 1995. Millions of people visit Joliet every year to check out its attractions, including two casinos, a NASCAR track and a National Hot Rod Association dragstrip. More than 90 percent of its gaming revenue is put back into the city. Its residents had a median household income of $47,761 in 2006.

Sixty-two Fortune 500 companies have headquarters in metropolitan Chicago. Many have long ties to the Chicago area. For instance, the first McDonald’s franchise was opened by Ray Kroc in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines in 1955. Kroc hoped to build on the success of the McDonald brothers’ hamburger stands in California to sell his milkshake machines.  

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