Will County, located within the Chicago metropolitan area in northeastern Illinois, boasts a population of approximately 696,757 people and a median household income of $94,469. However, the county’s economic prosperity is not uniform across all its neighborhoods.
Recent data from 2021, sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) program, reveals significant disparities. Here are the five most economically challenged neighborhoods in Will County:
5. Joliet City
Joliet City, the county’s largest city with a population of 147,344, faces economic hardships, boasting a poverty rate of 14.8% and a median household income of $64,948.
The city’s population is diverse, with 45.6% identifying as White, 17.9% as Black or African American, 2.1% as Asian, and 30.9% as Hispanic or Latino. Joliet City has historically been tied to industrial and manufacturing activities but grapples with contemporary economic and social challenges.
Fairmont, a census-designated place (CDP) in Will County with 2,459 residents, is another neighborhood grappling with economic difficulties. It reports a poverty rate of 15.7% and a median household income of $49,375.
Fairmont predominantly consists of Black or African American residents, accounting for 77.8% of its population. Originally founded as a coal mining community in the late 1800s, Fairmont has faced environmental degradation and insufficient investment over time.
3. Preston Heights
Preston Heights, another CDP in Will County, is home to 3,674 residents and contends with economic challenges. It exhibits a poverty rate of 16.6% and a median household income of $48,750.
The population in Preston Heights is diverse, with 37.7% White, 28.9% Black or African American, 1.6% Asian, and 29.5% Hispanic or Latino residents. Initially developed as a residential area for workers at the nearby Joliet Arsenal during World War II, Preston Heights has experienced economic decline and social issues since then.
2. Lockport Township
Lockport Township, one of Will County’s 24 townships with 59,095 residents, grapples with economic disparities. It reports a poverty rate of 17.3% and a median household income of $57,016. Lockport Township is diverse, with 58.9% identifying as White, 15.7% as Black or African American, 3.9% as Asian, and 19.8% as Hispanic or Latino residents.
It encompasses parts of several cities and villages, including Lockport, Crest Hill, Romeoville, and Fairmont. Lockport Township has a history of agricultural and industrial activities but has also faced urban sprawl and associated social problems.
Rockdale, a village in Will County with a population of 1,976, is the county’s most economically disadvantaged neighborhood. It reports a poverty rate of 20.7% and a median household income of $46,250. Rockdale has a predominantly White population, comprising 76.8% of its residents.
Originally established as a company town for workers at the Illinois Steel Company in the late 1800s, Rockdale has grappled with adapting to changing economic conditions and environmental challenges.
Will County, characterized by its diversity and dynamic nature, presents both opportunities and challenges for its residents. However, economic prosperity is not evenly distributed across its neighborhoods.
Some areas face high poverty rates and low median incomes, reflecting historical and ongoing economic and social issues. These neighborhoods require increased attention and support from local and state authorities to enhance living conditions and future prospects for their residents.