26 Reasons Why Chicago Is The Most Depressing Big City In America

chicago green river st patricksWorkers dye the Chicago River green as part of the city’s annual St. Patrick’s day celebrations in Chicago.

Author Rachel Shteir recently caused an uproar in Chicago after ripping into her adopted city.

Writing in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, Shteir accused Chicago of being stiflingly conformist, regularly electing crooks and idiots and generally clinging to outmoded cliches about itself. 

“[T]he city is trapped by its location, its past, and what philosophers would have called its facticity — its limitations, given the circumstances,” she wrote. “Boosterism has been perfected here because the reality is too painful to look at. Poor Chicago, indeed.”

Indeed, Chicago has to confront some harsh truths. It is not the place it once even a decade ago, let alone a century.

Yet, its heyday was recent enough that to sense its floundering stings all the more intensely. 

We wanted to survey how bad it’s gotten, and whether there’s any hope for the city that PBS bittersweetly still refers to as “The City Of The Century.”

Chicago is the only top 15 American city struggling to keep its population up.

The city lost more than 200,000 people last decade. Of the 15 largest cities in the United States in 2010, Chicago was the only one that lost population.

Source: City Journal

This year, Forbes named Chicago the country's fourth most-miserable city. Its residents suffer from long commutes...

The city ranks No. 4 in the country.

Source: Forbes, Marketwatch

Foreclosures plague the city...

To the tune of 1 in 229, compared with 1 in 418 nationally.

Source: Realtytrac

And home prices are lagging the rest of the country.

Chicago's home price index now trails the nationally average by nearly 30 points.

Chicago has more uninsured folks than the national average — 19.7% vs. 16.7%.

That's more than 550,000 people.

Source: Chicago Tribune

A municipal sales tax makes Chicago gas prices among the highest in the country.

A gallon of gas that would cost $4 in most cities costs $4.31 in Chicago.

Chicago's high school dropout rate is 2 points higher than the national average.

One out of five male Chicagoans does not have a high school diploma

Source: Northeastern University

Not surprisingly, about one in 10 Chicagoans don't have a job.

The city's unemployment rate is nearly three points higher than the national average.

Public payrolls are down the most, which disproportionately slams minorities.

Here's a map showing which neighborhoods got hit hardest by public job cuts. They're concentrated on the South and West sides, which are predominately African American and Hispanic.

Source: Chicago Magazine

As a result of all this, Chicago has developed a world-renowned gun violence problem.

That's a quote from Brittany Stokes, whose friend Kevin Ambrose, a college student, was recently murdered at a train station.

Source: DNAInfoChicago

The violence has divided the city: recently, parents at a tonier public school on the city's North Side recently refused to send their kids to play baseball against a South Side school.

Eventually the two did. But the dispute is emblematic of the tensions gun violence has created.

Source: Chicago Tribune

Chicago was once the hog butcher capital of the world.

It was famously profiled as such by poet Carl Sandburg.

This gave rise to one of the world's first modern commodities exchanges.

The Chicago Board Of Trade was created in 1848.

But as much of the financial world recovered from the crisis, the CME has lagged.

Revenue growth has flatlined since Lehman, and the firm has been in talks for months to get bought by Deutsche Borse.

Big companies have threatened to leave because of the city's taxes.

Like Sears, which is headquartered in a Chicago suburb.

Source: Chicago Tribune

Meanwhile, outside buyers have swooped down to take charge of the city's legacy companies.

In 2011, Google bought Motorola, which was founded in 1920 by two Chicago battery producers. In 2004 JP Morgan Chase bought Bank One Corp, whose roots went back to the First National Bank of Chicago; JPM Chase is now the second-largest private employer in the city.

Source: Motorola, Crain's

Its flagship 21st century tech startup company, GroupOn, is down 70% since its IPO.

CEO Andrew Mason stepped down last year.

Now the Sears tower isn't even called the Sears tower anymore (the naming rights were ceded to London insurer Willis Group in 2009).

Source: Chicago Tribune

It used to have the world's busiest airport.

Now O'Hare International Airport barely squeaks into the Top 5.

Source: Airport's Council International

It used to be on the cutting edge of architecture.

But it's produced just one blue chip architect -- Jeanne Gang -- in the past 40 years. The most prominent recent edition to the city's skyline was this Trump building.

Source: New Yorker

Most recently, the city has faced some embarrassing setbacks.

A teacher's strike crippled schools for a week.

And Mayor Rahm Emanuel has caught major flak for his plan to close or consolidate 54 schools.

Some accuse him of pleading hardship for the city while giving out corporate tax breaks.

Source: NBC

The city's political culture got a black eye when Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife were charged with felonies.

They're accused of misusing campaign funds. They're currently trying to figure out a plea deal.

Not everything is totally bleak.

The city recently produced a President and a Stanley Cup hockey championship, both pictured here.

But it sure feels like the city has entered a kind of permanent winter.

Which is saying something: mean average temperature ranges between 51 and 40 degrees. That's barely better than Buffalo.

Source: CurrentResults

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