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Why some people choose to stay in (or move back to) Chicago

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“The fact is, if you want a true urban lifestyle in the US, you have two choices: New York or Chicago. That’s it.”

Curbed Chicago Flickr pool/urbsinhorto1837

After newly released census data showed that Cook County and Illinois are losing more residents than any other state or metro area in the US, we asked readers if they planned on leaving Chicago or if they want to stay. Many of you had a lot to say.

Some readers suggest that the news about recent migration patterns is being blown out of proportion while others offered reasons as to why they plan on leaving the Windy City. With comments ranging from “don’t let the door hit you in the ass” to “I love Chicago but I’m afraid it is doomed,” it’s clear that many Chicagoans love their city, but many feel conflicted in their love for the city.

However, others suggest that their experience proves that the grass is indeed greener and that they’ve come to the conclusion that they want to return to Chicago at some point. There are also recent transplants who extol the virtues of Chicago for its cultural offerings and affordability compared to other major cities.

But being a large city with a dynamic economy and a complex neighborhood system, there’s really a lot to the Chicago experience. Some are conflicted about whether they plan to stay or go while others have decided that it’s time for them to move on.

Reader lp128 feels resigned to staying in Chicago, but also feels that the city could do much better for middle class residents:

I’m planning to stay for now. I don’t really know where else I’d go anyway. It makes me sad that Chicago hasn’t done more to retain its middle class residents. Then again, people will gladly leave Chicago to live in a cookie cutter subdivision in suburban Dallas. The metro area was still growing for a while because immigrants were moving directly to the suburbs. Has immigration slowed down or has out-migration picked up? Given the drastically lower cost-of-living here compared to NYC and LA, I’m still surprised the city isn’t attracting more people based on that alone.

Meanwhile, ordflyer99 offers an impassioned and structured breakdown as to why they plan on staying in Chicago:

Never. Lived here 17 years, and I think Chicago gets a bad rap in the media.

1. Crime rate is bad, but not as bad as in cities like St. Louis, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Baltimore, Oakland, and so on. But Chicago gets called out. A majority of the crime happens late at night, and it’s common sense to not be out late in a big city.

2. Chicago has some the best public elementary and high schools in the country, but everyone seems to forget about that in the heat of strike threats and budget cuts. There are tons of good options, it just takes a little research.

3. Weather really is not that bad. We have a couple of bad winters in a row that we typically never see, and all of a sudden everyone wants to leave to Texas. April-November the weather is great. Salaries are higher here—use that to take a trip during the winter….

4. The home market is really undervalued. Home prices are beginning to creep up, and everyone on the North Side is beginning to cash out. I’ll gladly stay to ride the wave upwards as the market heats up.

5. The future is really bright. Keep an eye on the downtown building boom. Tons of jobs are being added in the city as companies flood in from the suburbs and other midwestern cities, and college grads start their careers here. Growth has spread into South and West Loops, Bucktown, etc. The city is really transforming with all the new construction.

I’m not letting the media’s portrayal of my city change my opinion. True Chicagoans don’t give up and move out of state just because of media. True Chicagoans stick behind to turn things around.

And speaking staying in Chicago because “true Chicagoans don’t give up,” connectedspace is also committed to sticking it out:

I think I’ll stay. The taxes are going to get painful but I love this city and I want to help right the ship.

Manhattan is the only other place I’d live in this country. And hoo boy, I still have financial pain echoes from my last stint there.

This wasn’t the first comment to mention New York. Other readers, like CheCazzo, feel that Chicago and New York share a common thread:

I always like these threads because it demonstrates just how little is known by people.

I always say to people who complain about Chicago is "Go…nothing is stopping you"

The fact is, if you want a true urban lifestyle in the US, you have two choices: New York or Chicago. That’s it.

Now stop commenting and don’t let the door hit you in the a$$.

However, others, like smb90, plan on moving to New York as soon as possible:

I am moving to New York City in June. I have lived in Chicago for close to two years and there are a number of reasons that I would not consider staying in the city.

1. I agree with the previous comment that Chicago and Illinois will continue to struggle with pensions and budget issues which will drag the city and state behind further widening the innovation gap between Chicago and other cities.

2. The lack of integrated public transportation. Having so many large companies in the distant suburbs creates a huge lifestyle problem in Chicago. The normal commute time in this city is a real lifestyle killer.

3. House values. The uncertainty in Chicago/Illinois political/economic future make it difficult to justify purchasing property. I do not feel confident purchasing property in Chicago due to an uncertain tax situation and an uncertain economic future for the state. There is already a lot of available property in Chicago, if the city continues to shrink I worry about the value of my investment long term.

While I do not think that NYC is going to fully address my needs I do have a lot more confidence in the future of other US cities than I have in Chicago.

Former Curbed Seattle editor Sean Keeley chimed in on the discussion, suggesting that Chicago’s affordability makes it a logical choice:

Just got here from Seattle and while it might sound crazy, Chicago is way more affordable and way easier to live in. I’m good…

And perhaps the most impassioned response comes from LJSBurn57, a former Chicagoan living in the Dallas area who can’t wait to get back:

You don’t know what you’ve got till its gone. My wife and I moved to Dallas a year ago, thinking we would give somewhere new a try (had been in Chicago for 3 years, born and raised in the Midwest). Yes it’s warmer – but summer becomes the season to be hated instead of winter, with 100 plus degree temps keeping you inside all day. Yes it’s cheaper cost of living – but there is almost zero culture to speak of, especially compared to a truly global city like Chicago. Extreme sprawl, concrete, strip malls, toll roads, McMansions everywhere. Not to mention the "perks" of living in a red state like more casual sexism, religion and "what church do you go to" defining conversations and relationships, and legislators hell bent on turning the clock back on civil and women’s rights (while expanding gun rights and trying to pass a bathroom bill of their own).

We are moving back to Chicago in a week and couldn’t be more thrilled. Point is, what looks good on the surface is not always what it appears.

However, there were many, many more responses from people explaining their reasons for staying or leaving Chicago.