Best Illinois Counties For High Income Growth Potential

While many parents hope that their children have a chance to build better lives for themselves than their parents had, where those children grow up might have an impact on whether or not that turns out to be possible. A new study from Harvard economists called the Equality of Opportunity has found that a child's ability to improve economic prospects as an adult can be predicted by where he or she grows up and can be measured across genders and income levels.

The study looked at what a child of a particular gender or income level might be expected to make at age 26-and then how that outcome changes based on where they live.

Two Illinois counties stand out nationally at opposite positions-low-income children who grow up in DuPage County can expect to have a more than 15 percent earnings increase over their peers, the highest differential in the nation among the 100-biggest counties. Low-income children from Cook County, only miles away, have nearly the worst prospects (ranked 96th) for income mobility among the country's 100 biggest counties and can expect to make about 13 percent less than their peers as adults. In both counties, girls fare slightly better than boys compared to the population as a whole.


The area with the worst income mobility for low-income children is Baltimore. Children who grew up there can expect to make 17 percent less than their peers at age 26.

The margins vary throughout the state. The New York Times organized the data by county throughout the country. Check out the counties with the best and worst income outcomes for children based on how much more they'll make than other children in the same income categories in other regions across the 99th percentile and 75th percentile income brackets in Illinois, plus maps from the New York Times showing color-coded income outcomes for Illinois counties in each income bracket (red is less potential money, blue is more).

99th income percentile:


Best outcomes:

  • Jasper County, 8 percent more

  • Lawrence County, 8 percent more
  • Randolph county, 8 percent more
  • Worst outcomes:

    • McHenry County, 11 percent less

  • Kane County, 3 percent less
  • McDonough County, 1 percent less
  • 75th income percentile:


    Best outcomes:

    • Jasper County, 11 percent more

  • Cumberland County, 10 percent more
  • Shelby County, 9 percent more
  • Worst outcomes:

    • McHenry County, 8 percent less

  • Kane County, 5 percent less
  • Winnebago County, 2 percent less
  • Check out Reboot Illinois to see the earning potential for children who grow up in different counties in Illinois in the 25th percentile and 50th percentile income brackets at Reboot Illinois.

    Sign up for our daily email to stay up to date with Illinois politics.