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Nicknamed “the Prairie State,” Illinois is a Midwestern state bordered to the east by Indiana and to the West by the Mississippi River. It is known for its delectable cuisine, alluring forests, rolling hills, and farming.

Recent data shows that Illinois lost population. Nonetheless, a few cities continued to grow.

For instance, Chicago became the largest city in Illinois and the third-largest city in the US, and its population grew to 2,679,080 people as per the US Census Bureau.

The rural community, on the other hand, expanded less by population, unlike a few areas. For example, a small town like Pingree Grove experienced incredible population growth and was ranked as the fastest-growing community in 2020.

To know more about the fastest-growing Illinois cities, read on!

Top 10 Fastest-Growing Cities in Illinois

Illinois is home to one of the most famous presidents of the US, Abraham Lincoln. It stands high in luxury hotels, coal mining, oil production, and manufacturing. Nonetheless, there’s a lot more to the state than meets the eyes.

The US census bureau data shows an increase in the population of the state’s metropolitan areas than a decade ago.
Even a few small Illinois cities experienced substantial population growth. Here are the top growing cities in Illinois.


Also known as the Windy City, Chicago is the fastest-growing city in Illinois.

According to the United States census data, Chicago welcomed more than 50,000 residents since 2010 and became the largest city in Illinois with a 2,693,976 population.

Covering an area of 60,000 hectares and sitting 176 meters above sea level, the city is famous for its extensive parks, skyscrapers, and the world’s largest public library.

Did you know that the 109-story Willis Tower in Chicago is the tallest building in the United States? Not only this, but it also is home to the top-rated museum in the entire world.

Moreover, the cheesy, saucy goodness of Chicago attracts tourists from around the globe every year.

Being the nation’s business hub, Chicago is a great place for major companies and vast businesses to expand and flourish.


Located in Kane and DuPage counties, Aurora is the second-largest city in Illinois, with 197,759 population.

It is also known as the “City of Lights,” and for the right reasons. It was the first city in the US to illuminate the streets with electric lights.

Besides, lush green gardens, blackberry farms, wildlife parks, and museums make it a great city to get around with family and friends.


The population of Naperville is 148,449, making it the 175th largest city in the United States and the fourth-largest city in Illinois.

The vibrant city is a western suburb of Chicago and is home to world-class parklands, the best public library system in the country, and the lowest crime rate. Its low crime rate and safe environment make it one of the best places to raise a family in the United States (compared to other towns).

It is home to the first (and only) roundabouts in Illinois, which has helped decrease vehicle accidents since its inception.

There are a lot of hotels, coffee shops, and highly rated public schools, which is another plus. Naperville has all the amenities of a modern city and the charms of a small town, making it a wonderful place to live.


Joliet is yet another fastest-growing city in the Prairie State. Based on the data from the US census, the population of Joliet is 147,344, making it the 177th largest city in the US.

Joliet has grown 36.1% since 2000. It is among the cities that have experienced the most growth (73% faster than similar-sized towns).

Situated in the southwest of Chicago, the city was renamed after the visit of French-Canadian Explorer Louis Jolliet in 1673.

The energetic community of Joliet is full of various ethnicities and diverse cultures. If you have a love for art and an eye for aesthetics, you’ll be pleased to know that the city has it all: vibrant art exhibits, music, and theatre.

The city is home to major industrial parks and factories that offer employment opportunities, making it one of the best locations for job seekers.


Situated on the banks of Rock River in the north of Illinois, Rockford is the 180th largest city in the US.

The population of the city is 145,609. Nonetheless, its growth has been very low compared to other similar-sized cities.

The city has shrunk by 4.0% since 2000.

The community events, great food, entertainment, and beautiful river area (Sinnissippi) of Rockford draw tourists worldwide.

On the downside, the city ranks as one of the most dangerous in the state. The violent crime rate of 1658 incidents per 100,000 residents in 2016 makes it more dangerous than four times the US violent crime rate.


Springfield is the capital of the Prairie State. Lying along the Sangamon River, it has a population of 114,230, making it the 256th largest city in the US.

Abraham Lincoln was the resident of Springfield, which makes up a reason for it being among the famous Illinois cities.

If you’re into dancing and music, know that Springfield has the largest live music venue statewide.

What’s more, local dining, fall treats, and street art are other reasons for its popularity. In addition, it has over seven breweries and six wineries situated downtown and are all available within walking distance.

Springfield has a relatively low crime rate, making it a safe city for families, couples, and individuals.


Situated in the northern part of the Prairie State, Elgin is the 271st largest city in the US, with 110,849. It has grown 16.7% since 2000, which means its growth is average compared to other similar-sized cities.

However, the diversity and culture of Elgin are unmatched. Tourists and residents enjoy the cultural arts, historical museums, plenty of workshop places, and recreational sites.

Formerly, many of the remarkable homes in Elgin belonged to executives of the National Watch Company. The city is also famous for its landmarks from Victorian Area and historical culture.

Elgin is considered among the top 10 best places to live in Illinois, thanks to its increasing number of jobs, developed infrastructure, a stable housing market, vibrant city life, and safety.


The population of Peoria is 110,417 and is the 273rd largest city in the United States. Nonetheless, its growth has been below average compared to other growing cities in Illinois.

The largest city on the Illinois River is famous and gives picturesque views that other surrounding cities cannot provide.

Besides, it’s home to some classy cultural spots, great restaurants, and live entertainment. What’s more, the city has a low cost of living and moderately priced homes.


Based on recent stats, the current population of Champaign is 88,909. The city offers everything one would expect to see in a big town.

Champaign, IL, is rated as a decent town for families among the fastest-growing cities in Illinois. The city takes pride in its diverse food options, stable educational system, and progressive culture. What’s more, it is home to the University of Illinois.

The captivating sites, museums, and trails will tap into your adventurous soul if you’re an outdoor lover.

One downside to living in the town is its high crime rate. Based on FBI crime data, its crime rate is 92% higher than other towns and cities of the US.


Situated within the Chicago metropolitan area, Waukegan is the largest city in Lake country, Illinois.

According to the 2019 US census, the current population of Waukegan is 86,075, making it the 390th largest city in the US among the populations of all Illinois cities.

The city has many unique restaurants, art galleries, colorful murals, and holds year-round special events. Waukegan also hosts musical acts and several Broadway shows.

Although it is still under progress, the city’s outskirts became a ‘happening’ center of the industries, including flour milling, dairying, wagon building, and sheep raising in the middle of the nineteenth century.

If you plan to move to the city, know that it is a wonderful place to reside.

Largest City in Illinois

With an area of 227.37 (mi2) and a population of 2,679,080, Chicago tops the category of the largest city in Illinois.

However, it’s a whole different sort of experience living in Chicago. The splendid architecture, unique amenities, and world-class universities attract visitors from around the globe.

Population Growth in Urban vs. Rural Community, Illinois

Surprisingly, the population growth in rural and urban communities of Illinois varies a lot. Over the years, Chicago and a few other urban areas of Illinois gained more people. Illinois villages, on the other hand, lost population.

For instance, 87 out of 102 counties lost people, as per the 2020 US census. However, it would be wrong to generalize these stats as a few towns gained population. One among these is the Pingree Grove.

Pingree Grove is growing at a rate of 8.68% yearly, and it has reached the highest population, peaking at 11,750 in 2021, and remains the fastest-growing city in Illinois.

Where to Relocate in Illinois

Moving to a better location in your community can ensure your safety, shorten your commute time, and allow you to live a better life.

  • Chicago and Joliet: You can also enjoy living in major cities like Chicago and Joliet, which offer quality education and healthcare and job opportunities. The cost of living is higher than other Illinois cities, but it will be worth your money.
  • Windsor: If you want to settle down in a peaceful community with small-town charm, consider Windsor. The community offers low crime rates, an excellent school system, and affordable housing.
  • Peoria: Peoria features large conservation areas, trails for running or walking, and magnificent libraries. Furthermore, it is home to several big companies like Caterpillar Inc., the largest machine-building company in the world.
  • Naperville: Naperville is the fifth-largest city in the state. It offers good schools, cultural opportunities, and excellent living conditions. It also has a great public transportation system, making it easy for you to commute around the town.
  • Springfield, IL: Springfield is a great choice if you have a family. The city offers low crime rates, excellent schools, and high-quality healthcare services. They also have several wonderful attractions.
  • Pingree Grove: Pingree Grove is a small farming community with few distractions in the nation. However, it’s also home to more than 11,000 people and growing, thanks to the excellent schools and healthcare facilities. According to the US Census Bureau, the town was named a significant growing city in Illinois and “one of the fastest-growing communities in America.”

You can find a wide variety of communities among the fastest-growing cities in Illinois, where you and your family can settle down. No matter which places you choose, you will find all the amenities and essentials of a good life.

If your heart loves exploring wide green fields and hiking up mountains, then you need to visit Mt. Carroll.

The city is surrounded by three rivers and forests, making for a picturesque view from the top of Carroll County, north of the Rock River. But what’s unique about this place is that it has the highest elevation in the entire state.

The area is the highest point between the Appalachians and Rockies. You can take a scenic drive around the city and discover the amazing beauty of nature at its best.

Exciting Findings From 2020 US Census

Here are a few notable findings from the 2020 US census.

  • Chicago remains the largest city in the Prairie State, with a population of around 2.7 million.
  • With over 10 million people, Los Angeles remains the largest county in the US.
  • The largest city in the US is New York, with 8.8 million people.
  • The Villages Senior Living Community in Florida was the fastest-growing US metro area (growing 39% between 2010 and 2020 census)
  • Arkansas, Pine Bluff, Danville, and Illinois experienced the largest population decline.

The report also provides data on the average population density per county.

  • Following this trend, Kankakee has 792 people per square mile, while Alexander County has only 6.61 people living in every square mile of land.
  • If you wonder which cities gained big during the 2020 census, two top-rated towns come to mind.
  • In 2020, Centralia was the 12th fastest-growing city in Illinois, with a population of 4.9% every year from 2010 to 2020. The city currently has a population of 15,974.
  • In the 2020 census, the current population of the city is 106,742. That is a huge growth from 2010, when the city had only 82,848 residents.
  • One evident factor behind this rapid population explosion of Champaign is the presence of a major university. In addition, the University of Illinois attracts many students from all over the world.
  • In 2020, Champaign added 3,988 people (+2.5%) in an area of 26.67 square miles from the 2010 to 2020 census, making it the 40th fastest-growing city in the Prairie State.

Population Density and Urbanization

With 2,717 people on average living in each square mile, Cook County is Illinois’ most densely populated county. The next in line is DuPage, with 1,913 people and Will at 1,572 people.

Cook County is a big part of Chicago. The city’s population density stands at 9,859 residents per square mile. That’s huge compared to the Illinois state’s average of 387.

Urban Vs. Rural Population Distribution

Our research also reveals that Illinois has 55 cities with more than 10,000 people. With a total of 5,087 people living on average per square mile (or 298,744 for every 100 square miles), the populated communities of Illinois are more populated than small towns, villages, and rural areas.

Out of 102 counties of Illinois, 87 have lost residents between the 2010 and 2020 census. The major causes of population decline are low fertility rates, aging population, lack of jobs, etc.

The big change in population density is true for the state and the rest of the US. The 2020 census data shows that 93% of people in the US live in urban areas, which is more than two percentage points higher than the 1990 census.

Final Words

Chicago remains the largest city of the Prairie State as most people live there. In addition, some of the American billionaires reside in Chicago.

Small towns, big metropolitan areas, open land, and urban sprawl; Illinois has it all. In addition, most areas of the state are safe, making it a great place to live or visit as a tourist.

Whether it’s good food, popular labels, or live music, you’ll find everything in Illinois. Another lesser-known yet remarkable fact is that Illinois has the world’s only river that flows backward.

Fastest Growing Cities in Illinois Resources:

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