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State Guide

The State of Illinois is a state of the United States of America, the 21st to be admitted to the Union. Illinois is the most populous and demographically diverse Midwestern state and the fifth most populous in the nation. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and western Illinois, and natural resources like coal, timber, and petroleum in the south, Illinois has a broad economic base. Illinois is an important transportation hub; the Port of Chicago connects the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River via the Illinois River. Illinois is often viewed as a microcosm of the United States; an Associated Press analysis of 21 demographic factors found Illinois the "most average state," while Peoria has long been a proverbial social and cultural bellwether.

Nearly 66% of the population resides in the northeastern corner of the state comprising the Chicago metropolitan area. 1 in 4 residents of the state live within the city of Chicago itself.

With a population near 40,000 between 1300 and 1400 AD, the Mississippian city of Cahokia, in what is now southern Illinois, was the largest city within the future United States until it was surpassed by New York City between 1790 and 1800. About 2,000 Native American hunters and a small number of French villagers inhabited the Illinois area at the time of the American Revolution. American settlers began arriving from Kentucky in the 1810s; they achieved statehood in 1818. The future metropolis of Chicago was founded in the 1830s on the banks of the Chicago River, one of the only natural harbors on southern Lake Michigan. Railroads and John Deere's invention of the self-scouring steel plow made central Illinois' rich prairie into some of the world's most productive and valuable farmlands, attracting immigrant farmers from Germany and Sweden. Northern Illinois provided major support for Illinoisans Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant during the American Civil War. By 1900, the growth of industry in northern cities and coal mining in central and southern areas attracted immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe, and made the state a major arsenal in both world wars. African-Americans migrating to Chicago from the rural South formed a large and important community, which created the city's famous jazz and blues cultures.


The state is named for the French adaptation of an Algonquian language (perhaps Miami) word apparently meaning "s/he speaks normally" (Miami ilenweewa, Proto-Algonquian *elen-, "ordinary" and -we·, "to speak"). Alternately, the name is often associated with the indigenous Illiniwek people, a consortium of Algonquian tribes that thrived in the area. The name Illiniwek is frequently (incorrectly) said to mean "tribe of superior men"; or "men". Both etymologies are unworkable.


The northeastern border of Illinois is Lake Michigan. Its eastern border with Indiana is all of the land west of the Wabash River, and a north-south line above Post Vincennes, or 87°31′30″ west longitude. Its northern border with Wisconsin is fixed at 42°30' north latitude. Its western border with Missouri and Iowa is the Mississippi River. Its southern border with Kentucky is the Ohio River. Illinois also borders Michigan, but only via a water boundary in Lake Michigan.

Though Illinois lies entirely in the Interior Plains, it has three major geographical divisions. The first is Northern Illinois, dominated by the Chicago metropolitan area, including the city of Chicago, its suburbs, and the adjoining exurban area into which the metropolis is expanding. As defined by the federal government, the Chicago metro area includes a few counties in Indiana and Wisconsin and stretches across much of northeastern Illinois. It is a cosmopolitan city, densely populated, industrialized, and settled by a wide variety of ethnic groups. The city of Rockford generally sits along Interstates 39 and 90 and is the state's third largest city.

Southward and westward, the second major division is Central Illinois, an area of mostly flat prairie. Known as the Heart of Illinois, it is characterized by small towns and mid-sized cities. The western section (west of the Illinois River) was originally part of the Military Tract of 1812 and forms the distinctive western bulge of the state. Agriculture, particularly corn and soybeans, as well as educational institutions and manufacturing centers, figure prominently. Cities include Peoria—the third largest metropolitan area in Illinois at 370,000—Springfield—the state capital—Quincy, Decatur, Bloomington-Normal and Champaign-Urbana.

The third division is Southern Illinois, comprising the area south of U.S. Route 50, and including Little Egypt, near the juncture of the Mississippi River and Ohio River. This region can be distinguished from the other two by its warmer climate, different mix of crops (including some cotton farming in the past), more rugged topography (the southern tip is unglaciated with the remainder glaciated during the Illinoian Age and earlier ages), as well as small-scale oil deposits and coal mining. The area is a little more populated than the central part of the state with the population centered in two areas. First, the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis comprise the second most populous metropolitan area in Illinois with nearly 600,000 inhabitants, and are known collectively as the Metro-East. The second area is Williamson County, Jackson County, Franklin County, Saline County and Perry County. It is home to around 210,000 residents.

The region outside of the Chicago Metropolitan area is often described as "downstate Illinois". However, residents of central and southern Illinois view their regions as geographically and culturally distinct, and do not necessarily use this term.

In extreme northwestern Illinois, the Driftless Zone, a region of unglaciated and therefore higher and more rugged topography, occupies a small part of the state. Charles Mound, located in this region, has the state's highest elevation above sea level at 1,235 feet (376 m). The highest structure in Illinois is the Sears Tower with a roof elevation of approximately 2,030 feet (619 m) above sea level. [Chicago elevation (580 ft) + tower height (1450) = 2030.]

The floodplain on the Mississippi River from Alton to the Kaskaskia River is the American Bottom, and is the site of the ancient city of Cahokia. It was a region of early German settlement, as well as the site of the first state capital, at Kaskaskia which is separated from the rest of the state by the Mississippi River.

A portion of Southeastern Illinois is part of the extended Evansville, Indiana Metro Area, commonly referred to as the Tri-State with Indiana and Kentucky. Seven Illinois Counties are in the area.


Because of its nearly 400 mile (640 km) length and mid-continental situation, Illinois has a widely varying climate. Most of Illinois has a humid continental climate (Koppen climate classification Dfa) with hot, humid summers and cool to cold winters. The southernmost part of the state, from about Carbondale southward, borders on a humid subtropical climate (Koppen Cfa) with more moderate winters. Average yearly precipitation for Illinois varies from just over 48 inches (1,220 mm) at the southern tip to around 35 inches (890 mm) in the northern portion of the state. Normal annual snowfall exceeds 38 inches (96 cm) in the Chicago area, while the southern portion of the state normally receives less than 14 inches (35 cm). The highest temperature recorded in Illinois was 117 °F (47 °C), recorded on July 14, 1954, at East St. Louis, while the lowest temperature was -36 °F (-38 °C), recorded on January 5, 1999, at Congerville.

Illinois averages around 50 days of thunderstorm activity a year which put it somewhat above average for number of thunderstorm days for the United States. Illinois is vulnerable to tornadoes with an average of 35 occurring annually, which puts much of the state at around 5 tornadoes per 10,000 square miles (30,000 km²) annually. The deadliest tornado on record in the nation occurred largely in Illinois. The Tri-State Tornado of 1925 killed 695 people in three states; 613 of the victims lived in Illinois.


Illinois has numerous museums. The state of the art Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield is the largest presidential library in the country. And numerous museums in the city of Chicago are considered some of the best in the world. These include the John G. Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Science and Industry. The Museum of Science and Industry is the only building remaining from the 1893 Columbian Exposition held in Chicago to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of the new world.

The Illinois state park system began in 1908 with what is now Fort Massac State Park becoming the first park in a system encompassing over 60 parks and about the same number of recreational and wildlife areas.

Areas under the protection and control of the National Park Service include the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor near Lockport, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail, and the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.



Cahokia, the urban center of the pre-Columbian Mississippian culture, was located near present-day Collinsville, Illinois. That civilization vanished in the 15th century for unknown reasons. The next major power in the region was the Illiniwek Confederation, or Illini, a political alliance among several tribes. There were about 25,000 Illinois Indians in 1700, but systematic attacks and genocide by the Iroquois reduced their numbers by 90%. Members of the Potawatomi, Miami, Sauk, and other tribes came in from the east and north. In the American Revolution, the Illinois and Potawatomi supported the American cause.

European exploration

French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet explored the Illinois River in 1673. In 1680, other French explorers constructed a fort at he site of the nowaday’s city of Peoria, in 1682 a fort atop Starved Rock in nowaday’s Starved Rock State Park. As a result of this French exploration, Illinois was part of the French empire until 1763, when it passed to the British. The small French settlements continued; a few British soldiers were posted in Illinois but there were no British or American settlers. In 1778 George Rogers Clark claimed the Illinois Country for Virginia. The area was ceded by Virginia to the new United States in 1783 and became part of the Northwest Territory.

19th century

The Illinois-Wabash Company was an early claimant to much of Illinois. The Illinois Territory was created on February 3, 1809, with its capital at Kaskaskia. In 1818, Illinois became the 21st U.S. state. The new state debated slavery then rejected it, as settlers poured into southern Illinois from Kentucky.

Thanks to Nathaniel Pope, the delegate from Illinois, Congress shifted the northern border 41 miles (66 km) north to 42° 30' north, which added 8,500 square miles (22,000 km²) to the state, including Chicago, Galena and the lead mining region. The capital remained at Kaskaskia, but in 1819 it was moved to Vandalia. In 1832 the Black Hawk War is fought in Illinois and nowaday's Wisconsin between the United States and several Indian tribes. Indians removed to Iowa, attempted to return, but were defeated by the U.S. militia and forced back to Iowa.

The winter of 1830-1831 is called the "Winter of the Deep Snow". A sudden, deep snowfall blanketed the state, making travel impossible for the rest of the winter. Many travelers perished. Several severe winters followed, including the "Winter of the Sudden Freeze". On December 20, 1836, a fast-moving cold front passed through, freezing puddles in minutes and killing many travelers who could not reach shelter. The adverse weather resulted in crop failures in the northern part of the state. The southern part of the state shipped food north and this may have contributed to its name: "Little Egypt", after the Biblical story of Joseph in Egypt supplying grain to his brothers.

By 1839 the Mormon utopian city of Nauvoo, located on the Mississippi River, was created, settled, and flourished. In 1844 the Mormon leader Joseph Smith was killed in the Carthage, Illinois jail. After close to six years of rapid development the Mormon city of Nauvoo, which rivaled Chicago as Illinois' largest city, saw a rapid decline. In 1846 the Mormons had left Illinois for the West in a mass exodus.

The state has a varied history in relation to Slavery and the treatment of African-Americans in general. Some slave labor was used before it became a territory, but Slavery was banned by the time Illinois became a state in 1818. The Southern part of the state, known as "Little Egypt", was largely settled by immigrants from the South, and the section was sympathetic to the South and slave labor. For a while the section continued to allow some slave labor on a migratory basis, but citizens were opposed to allowing Blacks as permanent residents. In the Illinois Constitution of 1848, reacting to such concerns, a provision was made for exclusionary laws to be passed. In 1853 John A. Logan, later a Union General in the American Civil War, introduced such bills and laws were passed to prohibit all African-Americans, including Freedmen, from settling in the state.

Chicago gained prominence as a Great Lakes port and then as an Illinois and Michigan Canal port after 1848, and as a rail hub soon afterward. By 1857, Chicago was Illinois' largest city.

With the tremendous growth of mines and factories in Illinois in the 19th century, Illinois played an important role in the formation of labor unions in the United States. The Pullman Strike and Haymarket Riot in particular greatly influenced the development of the American labor movement.

American Civil War

During the American Civil War, over 250,000 Illinois men served in the Union Army, more than any other northern state except New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Beginning with President Lincoln's first call for troops and continuing throughout the war, Illinois mustered 150 infantry regiments, which were numbered from the 7th to the 156th regiments. Seventeen cavalry regiments were also gathered, as well as two light artillery regiments.

Twentieth century

In the 20th century, Illinois emerged as one of the most important states in the union with a population of nearly 5 million. By the end of the century, the population would reach 12.4 million. The Century of Progress World's Fair was held at Chicago in 1933. Oil strikes in Marion County and Crawford County lead to a boom in 1937, and, by 1939, Illinois ranked 4th in U.S. oil production.

Following World War II, Argonne National Laboratory, near Chicago, activated the first experimental nuclear power generating system in the United States in 1957. By 1960, the first privately financed nuclear plant in United States, Dresden 1, was dedicated near Morris. Chicago became an ocean port with the opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway in 1959. The seaway and the Illinois Waterway connected Chicago to both the Mississippi River and the Atlantic Ocean. In 1960, Ray Kroc opened the first McDonald's franchise in Des Plaines (which still exists today as a museum, with a working McDonald's across the street).

In 1970, the state's sixth constitutional convention authored a new constitution to replace the 1870 version. It was ratified in December. The first Farm Aid concert was held in Champaign to benefit American farmers, in 1985. The worst upper Mississippi River flood of the century, the Great Flood of 1993, inundated many towns and thousands of acres of farmland. It also flooded many homes and streets slowing transportational services.


As of 2006, Illinois has an estimated population of 12,831,970, which is an increase of 65,200 from the prior year and an increase of 412,323, or 3.3%, since the year 2000. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 481,799 people (that is 1,138,398 births minus 656,599 deaths) and a decrease due to net migration of 71,456 people out of the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in an increase of 402,257 people, and migration within the country produced a loss of 473,713 people.

As of 2004 there were 1,682,900 foreign-born (13.3%).

At the northern edge of the state on Lake Michigan lies Chicago, the nation's third largest city. In 2000, 23.3% of the population lived in the city of Chicago, 43.3% in Cook County and 65.6% the counties of the Chicago metro area; Will, DuPage, Kane, Lake, and McHenry Counties as well as Cook County. The rest of the population lives in the smaller cities and in the rural areas that dot the state's plains. According to the 2000 census, the state population center was 41.278216° N 88.380238° W in Grundy County northeast of Mazon.

According to 2005 census, the racial distributions are as follows: 65.6% White American, 15.1% African-American, 3.9% are Asian, 2% other, and the remaining 13.2% are Hispanics or Latino of any race. Nearly three in ten whites in Illinois claimed at least partial German ancestry on the Census. African-Americans are present in large numbers in the city of Chicago, East St. Louis, and the southern tip of the state. Residents citing American and British ancestry are especially concentrated in the southeastern part of the state. Metropolitan Chicago has the greatest numbers of people of Irish, Mexican, and Polish ancestry.

7.1% of Illinois' population was reported as under age 5, 26.1% under age 18, and 12.1% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 51% of the population.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 10.85% of the population aged 5 and older speak Spanish at home, while 1.60% speak Polish.


Catholics and Protestants are the largest religious groups in Illinois. However, Illinois is not as heavily Protestant as are neighboring states. Roman Catholics, who are heavily concentrated in and around Chicago, account for 30% of the population. Chicago and its suburbs are also home to a large and growing population of Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs.


The 2006 total gross state product for Illinois was nearly $589 billion USD, placing it 5th in the nation. The 2004 per capita income was $34,721 USD.

Illinois's state income tax is calculated by multiplying net income by a flat rate, currently 3%. There are two rates for state sales tax: 6.25% for general merchandise and 1% for qualifying food, drugs and medical appliances. The property tax is the largest single tax in Illinois, and is the major source of tax revenue for local government taxing districts. The property tax is a local—not state—tax, imposed by local government taxing districts which include counties, townships, municipalities, school districts, and special taxing districts. The property tax in Illinois is imposed only on real property.

Agricultural and industry

Illinois's agricultural outputs are corn, soybeans, hogs, cattle, dairy products, and wheat. In most years Illinois is the leading state for the production of soybeans, with a harvest of 500 million bushels (14 million metric tons) in 2004. Illinois is ranked second in total corn production. Illinois' universities are actively researching alternative agricultural products as alternative crops.

As of 2003, the leading manufacturing industries in Illinois, based upon value-added, were chemical manufacturing ($16.6 billion), food manufacturing ($14.4 billion), machinery manufacturing ($13.6 billion), fabricated metal products ($10.5 billion), plastics and rubber products ($6.8 billion), transportation equipment ($6.7 billion), and computer and electronic products ($6.4 billion). Important non-manufacturing industries include financial services, publishing, petroleum, and coal.


Illinois is a net importer of fuels for energy, despite large coal resources and some minor oil production. Illinois exports electricity, ranking fifth among states in electricity production and seventh in electricity consumption.


About 68% of Illinois has coal-bearing strata of the Pennsylvanian geologic period. According to the Illinois State Geological Survey, 211 billion tons of bituminous coal are estimated to lie under the surface, having a total heating value greater than the estimated oil deposits in the Arabian Peninsula. However, this coal has a high sulfur content, which causes acid rain unless special equipment is used to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions. Many Illinois power plants are not equipped to burn high-sulfur coal. In 1999, Illinois produced 40.4 million tons of coal, but only 17 million tons (42%) of Illinois coal was consumed in Illinois. Most of the coal produced in Illinois is exported to other states, while much of the coal burned for power in Illinois (21 million tons in 1998) is mined in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming.

Mattoon was recently chosen as the site for the Department of Energy's FutureGen project, a 275 megawatt experimental zero emission coal-burning power plant; however, the DOE has pulled out of the project.


Illinois is a leading refiner of petroleum in the American Midwest, with a combined crude oil distillation capacity of nearly 900,000 barrels per day (1.43×105 m³/d). However, Illinois has very limited crude oil proved reserves that account for less than 1% of U.S. crude oil proved reserves. Residential heating is 81% natural gas compared to less than 1% heating oil. Illinois is ranked 14th in oil production among states, with a daily output of approximately 28,000 barrels (4,500 m³) in 2005.

Nuclear power

Nuclear power arguably began in Illinois with the Chicago Pile-1, the world's first artificial self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction in the world's first nuclear reactor, built on the University of Chicago campus. With six major nuclear power plants (Braidwood, Byron, Clinton, Dresden, LaSalle, and Quad Cities) housing eleven reactors, Illinois is ranked first in nuclear generating capacity among the 31 states with nuclear plants. In 2005, 48% of Illinois' electricity was generated using nuclear power.

Wind power

Illinois has seen growing interest in the use of wind power for electrical generation. Most of Illinois is rated "fair" for wind energy production by the Department of Energy, with some western sections rated "good" and parts of the south rated "poor". Currently, there are four major wind farms in Illinois; the two largest farms each have a production capacity over 50 megawatts. A number of larger projects have also been proposed. Although it currently represents only a negligible part of Illinois' energy production, it is estimated that wind power could provide 5-10% of the state's energy needs.


Illinois is ranked second in corn production among U.S. states, and Illinois corn is used to produce 40% of the ethanol consumed in the United States. The Archer Daniels Midland corporation in Decatur, Illinois is the world's leading producer of ethanol from corn.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is one of the partners in the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), a $500 million biofuels research project funded by petroleum giant BP.


Because of its central location and its proximity to the Rust Belt and Grain Belt, Illinois is a national crossroads for rail, auto and truck traffic.

Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (ORD) is one of the busiest airports in the world, with 62 million domestic passengers annually along with 12 million international passengers. It is a hub for United Airlines and American Airlines, and a major airport expansion project is currently underway. Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) is the secondary airport serving metro Chicago, with 19 million passengers in 2006.

Illinois has an extensive rail network transporting both passengers and freight. Chicago is a national Amtrak hub and in-state passengers are served by Amtrak's Illinois Service featuring the Chicago to Carbondale Illini and Chicago to Quincy Illinois Zephyr and Chicago to St. Louis [lincoln service]. Currently there is trackwork on the Chicago-St. Louis line to bring the maximum speed up to 110 mph (180 km/h) which would reduce the trip time by an hour and a half. Nearly every North American railway meets at Chicago, making it one of the largest and most active rail hubs in the world. Extensive commuter rail is provided in the city proper and immediate northern suburbs by the Chicago Transit Authority's 'L' system. The largest suburban commuter rail system in the United States, operated by Metra, uses existing rail lines to provide direct commuter rail access for hundreds of suburbs to the city and beyond.

Major U.S. Interstate highways crossing the state include: I-24, I-39, I-55, I-57, I-64, I-70, I-72, I-74, I-80, I-88, I-90, and I-94. Illinois carries the distinction of having the most primary (2-digit) Interstates pass through it among the 50 states. In 2005, there were 1,355 traffic deaths on Illinois roadways, the lowest in more than 60 years.

In addition to the states rail lines, the Mississippi River and Illinois River provide major routes for the states agricultural interests. Lake Michigan connects Illinois to all waterways east.

Law and government

Under its constitution, Illinois has three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. Legislative functions are granted to the Illinois General Assembly, composed of the 118-member Illinois House of Representatives and the 59-member Illinois Senate. The executive branch is led by the Governor of Illinois, but four other executive officials are separately elected by the people. The judiciary is composed of the Supreme Court of Illinois and the lower appellate and circuit courts.


Historically, Illinois was a major battleground state between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. In recent elections, it has gradually shifted more Democratic at the national and state level and has become the most Democratic state in the Midwest. Democratic dominance in Illinois is due in part to the control of Chicago. In addition, Democrats have made inroads in the traditionally Republican "collar counties" (i.e., the suburbs surrounding Chicago's Cook County, Illinois), which are becoming increasingly diverse. In downstate Illinois, Republicans usually prevail in rural northern and central Illinois, and Democrats usually win in southern Illinois and in the Quad Cities and East St. Louis metropolitan areas. Illinois voted for Democratic presidential candidates in the last four elections. John Kerry easily won the state's 21 electoral votes in 2004 by a margin of 11 percentage points with 54.8% of the vote despite winning outright in only 15 of 102 counties.

Politics in the state, particularly Chicago machine politics, have been famous for highly visible corruption cases, as well as for crusading reformers such as governors Adlai Stevenson (D) and James R. Thompson (R). In 2006, former Governor George Ryan (R) was convicted of racketeering and bribery. In the late 20th century Congressman Dan Rostenkowski (Dem) was imprisoned for mail fraud; former governor and federal judge Otto Kerner, Jr. (D) was imprisoned for bribery; and State Auditor of Public Accounts (Comptroller) Orville Hodge (R) was imprisoned for embezzlement. In 1912 William Lorimer, the GOP boss of Chicago, was expelled from the U.S. Senate for bribery, and in 1921 Governor Len Small (R) was found to have defrauded the state of a million dollars.

Illinois has the unique distinction of having popularly elected two of the five African Americans who have served in the U.S. Senate: Carol Moseley-Braun and Barack Obama.

The first Governor was Shadrach Bond, who served from 1818 to 1822.

Two presidents have claimed Illinois as their political base, former Representative of Illinois' 7th congressional district Abraham Lincoln (born in Kentucky) and General Ulysses S. Grant (born in Ohio). President Ronald Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois, but ran from his political home state of California, where he served as Governor. Former Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson was the Democratic nominee for president in 1952 and 1956. Current Illinois Senator Barack Obama (born in Honolulu, Hawaii) received enough delegates to clinch the Presidential nomination of the Democratic Party in the 2008 United States Presidential election, and if successful in the general election, would be the third president from Illinois. His main opponent for the nomination, New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (born in Chicago and raised in Park Ridge, Illinois) would have been the second president born in Illinois, although she is running from New York.

Largest cities

Chicago is the largest city in the state and the third most populous city in the United States. The US Bureau of the Census currently lists seven other cities with populations of over 100,000 within Illinois. Based upon the Bureau's official 2006 scientific estimates, they are: Aurora, a Chicago outlier which at 170,617 has recently (2006) eclipsed Rockford for the title of "Second City" of Illinois. However, at 155,138, Rockford is not only the number three city, but also remains the largest city in the state not located within the Chicago metropolitan area. Naperville, another suburb located west of Chicago, is the fourth largest city in the state, with a population of 142,901. Joliet, a city southwest of Chicago, is fifth with 142,702. Springfield, the state capital of Illinois, comes in sixth with 116,482. Peoria, which decades ago was the second largest city in the state, comes in seventh with 113,107. The final city in the 100,000 club is Elgin, an outlying northwest suburb of Chicago with a 2006 population of 101,903. Other major urban areas include the Illinois portion of the Greater St. Louis area (often called the Metro-East area) which has a population of over 600,000 people, the Illinois portion the Quad Cities area which has a population of 215,000, the Champaign-Urbana area which has a combined population of 210,000, and Bloomington-Normal with a combined population of over 125,000.


Illinois State Board of Education

The Illinois State Board of Education or ISBE, autonomous of the governor and the state legislature, administers public education in the state. Local municipalities and their respective school districts operate individual public schools but the ISBE audits performance of public schools with the Illinois School Report Card. The ISBE also makes recommendations to state leaders concerning education spending and policies.

Primary and secondary schools

Education is compulsory from kindergarten through the twelfth grade in Illinois, commonly but not exclusively divided into three tiers of primary and secondary education: elementary school, middle school or junior high school and high school. District territories are often complex in structure. In some cases, elementary, middle and junior high schools of a single district feed into high schools in another district.

Colleges and universities

Major universities

Using the criterion established by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, there are nine "National Universities" in the state. Four of these rank among the top 100 National Universities in United States, as determined by the prestigious US News and World Report rankings: the University of Chicago (9), Northwestern University (14), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (38), and the Illinois Institute of Technology (96)[61] The other five major schools are: (alphabetically) DePaul University, Illinois State University, Loyola University Chicago, Northern Illinois University, and Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Other post-secondary schools

Besides the "National Universities", Illinois has several other universities, both public and private. There are also literally dozens of small liberal arts colleges across the state. Additionally, Illinois supports 49 public community colleges in the Illinois Community College System.


Because of its large population, Chicago is the focus of most professional sports in Illinois though outside of the Chicago area professional teams in St. Louis and Indianapolis are also supported. Chicago is the home to 15 different professional sports teams.

The Chicago Cubs of the National League play in the second-oldest major league stadium (Wrigley Field) and are famous for not winning the World Series since 1908. The Chicago White Sox of the American League won the World Series championship in 2005, their first since 1917. The Chicago Bears football team has won 9 total NFL Championships, the last occurring in Super Bowl XX. Coincidentally, the city's Arena Football League team, the Chicago Rush, won ArenaBowl XX. The Chicago Bulls of the NBA are one of the most recognized basketball teams in the world, thanks to the heroics of a player often cited as the best ever, Michael Jordan, who led the team to six NBA championships in eight seasons in the 1990s. The Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL began playing in 1926 as a member of the Original Six and have won three Stanley Cups. The Chicago Fire soccer club are members of MLS and are one of the league's most successful and best-supported since its founding in 1997, winning one league and four US Open Cups in that timespan. The Chicago Wolves are an AHL minor league team that is also very popular and has been a winning team since it's first season. The city was formerly home to other teams, such as the Chicago Rockers of the CBA, Chicago Skyliners of the IBL, the Chicago Bruisers of Arena Football and the Chicago Blitz of the USFL. Before the Fire, the Chicago Sting of Major League Soccer and the Chicago Power of the MISL both spent time as the state's premiere soccer team. The city is not the only place where sports played professionally. The Rockford Lightning is one of the oldest CBA teams in the league, and the Peoria Chiefs and Kane County Cougars are minor league baseball teams affiliated with MLB. The Schaumburg Flyers are a prominent independent league baseball team.

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