Chicago Fact Sheet
Chicago is one of the nation's greatest cities, but it has challenges. An outline of four of the most significant problems.
Following are facts related to four of the most significant problems that plague Chicago, as well as a list that illustrates the city’s many strengths. Chicago’s assets make it one of the greatest cities in the U.S. and the world and provide a basis for hope that the city can overcome its problems before it sinks into irreversible decline. To turn things around, Chicagoans must insist their elected leaders enact policies that restore fiscal health, promote economic growth, and allow the city to attract and retain residents and businesses.
Overall, serious crime is up significantly in Chicago since 2018, and February 2023 polling by Echelon Insights shows Chicagoans cite crime as one of their top two issues of concern.
- The number of police officers is down by more than 1,700 since 2019, and there are currently over 1,000 police vacancies.
- Serious crime in Chicago increased 41% from 2021 to 2022, and by 19% from 2018 to 2022. It is up 29% for the first nine months in 2023, compared to the same period in 2022. (The Chicago Police Department publishes citywide crime data for murder, criminal sexual assault, robbery, aggravated battery, burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft.)
- Theft was the largest contributor to the rise in the crime rate. Car theft increased by 114% from 2018 to 2022, while other theft increased by 32%.
- Carjackings increased to 1,650 in 2022, up from 487 cases in 2013.
- In 2022, 1 in every 1,000 residents in Chicago was a victim of gun violence.
- Murders declined 14% between 2021 and 2022, but rose 20% between 2018 and 2022.
- The four years with the highest number of homicides in Chicago since 2000 took place between 2016 and 2022.
Few students meet grade-level standards in Chicago Public Schools, demographic proficiency gaps persist, the district enrolls fewer students each year and absenteeism continues to rise – yet graduation rates have hit record highs.
- Percentage of CPS students in 3rd-8th grades proficient in reading and math by demographic:
- All: 20% in reading, 15% in math
- Low-income: 14% in reading, 9% in math
- Black: 11% in reading, 6% in math
- Hispanic/Latino: 17% in reading, 11% in math
- Percentage of students in 11th grade proficient in reading and math on the SAT by demographic:
- All: 21% in reading, 21% in math
- Low-income: 13% in reading, 13% in math
- Black: 10% in reading, 8% in math
- Hispanic: 16% in reading, 17% in math
- Enrollment has dropped by about 80,000 students during the past decade (2013-14 to 2022-23) to 322,106 students enrolled at the start of the 2022-2023 school year.
- Chronic absenteeism rose to nearly 45% in the 2021-22 school year compared to 24% in the 2018-19 school year, the final full school year prior to pandemic-era school closures.
- Chronic absenteeism among low-income students is even higher at 49%.
- Graduation rates in CPS hit a record high of 82.9% for the class of 2022.
- CPS’ operating budget is $8.49 billion for fiscal year 2024, a 58% increase over the past decade, and per pupil operational spending is $26,356.
- The Chicago Teachers Union contract expires in 2024, and Johnson’s board of education will be negotiating the new contract with the union.
- CTU is pushing to kill Invest in Kids, Illinois’ only school choice program, which serves more than 9,600 students from low-income families.
- While opposing school choice for low-income families and calling proponents of school choice “racist” and “fascist,” CTU President Stacy Davis Gates admitted in September she sends her son to a private Catholic school.
Budgets, debt and taxes
Despite a high tax burden, including some of the highest property and sales taxes in the U.S., Chicago still has massive pension debt, as well as a forecasted $538 million budget shortfall for 2024.
- Chicago is saddled with $48 billion in pension debt – more than 44 other states.
- Over 80% of property taxes levied in Chicago go to paying down pension debt.
- Debt service and pension contributions make up 42% of the city budget.
- Among the most populous cities in each state, Chicago ranks second in terms of commercial property tax, with an effective tax rate of 3.8%.
- Starting in 2023, the statutory payment to the firefighters’ pension fund jumped to 74.48% of payroll and is scheduled to remain constant at that level. For the police pension fund, this figure is 1% of payroll. Chicago is paying for almost two full workforces.
- From 2014 to 2023, property taxes levied by the city of Chicago doubled, from $859 million to $1.73 billion.
- In Cook County, the median residential property tax bill has increased by nearly 77% in 20 years, from $2,614 in 2003 to $4,625 in 2022.
- Mayor Brandon Johnson is proposing a graduated “mansion tax” on all real estate – not just homes – that cost over $1 million.
The unfortunate result of Chicago’s fiscal situation, rising crime rate and failing school system is the exodus of residents and businesses.
- From July 2021 to July 2022, Cook County lost more population than any other county in the nation except Los Angeles County, driven by 94,344 people leaving.
- From July 2021 to July 2022, Chicago’s population declined by 32,990 residents.
- The Chicago metropolitan area population declined by 74,822 during the same period.
- In recent years, six major corporations have left: Citadel, Boeing, Tyson Foods, TTX, Highland Ventures, and Guggenheim partners.
Chicago has a relatively highly educated population, world-class universities, beautiful natural resources, a central location with ample transportation options as well as many businesses already located here. It has been, and with sound policy changes, could be a destination city for people and businesses from every part of the country as well as the rest of the world.
- Educated population: Of the top 10 most populous American cities, Chicago ranks third for the percentage of residents holding at least a bachelor’s degree, ahead of New York City, Los Angeles and Houston.
- World-class universities: Chicago is home to several universities, including Northwestern, which ranked ninth and University of Chicago, which ranked 12th in the most recent U.S. News college rankings.
- Natural resources: Chicago’s lakefront spans 30 miles, and its lakefront trail spans 18 of those miles. As of the 2023 summer, the city had 22 beaches open.
- Centrally located transportation hub: Chicago O’Hare is the fourth-busiest airport in the world. Chicago Union Station is Amtrak’s fourth-busiest train station, serving over 2.3 million passengers.
- Cost of living lower than many major U.S. cities: Chicago’s cost of living is lower than San Francisco’s, Los Angeles/Long Beach’s, Boston’s or Manhattan’s.
- Rich cultural scene: As of 2022, Chicago ranked in the top 20 in the world for number of Michelin star restaurants and fourth-most in the United States. Chicago features over 74 museums.
- Business: Illinois is home to 59 Fortune 500 companies, including United Airlines, Mondelez International and McDonald’s restaurants.