Our Community and Who We Serve

Historical Perspective

Arlington Heights had its beginnings in the late 1830's when eastern homesteaders and German immigrants moved into the area. The new settlers started farming and small communities began to take shape. In 1854, the railroad came to Arlington Heights, linking the sleepy farm town to the city of Chicago. By 1870 the little town began to grow in importance and population. 1887 saw the incorporation of the Village of Arlington Heights and by the early 1900's basic civic improvements and public services had begun. Arlington Heights was changing from a small farm town into the village we know today.

When the Park District was formed in 1925, it served a population of approximately 2,300. The population continued to grow at a steady pace until it reached 8,768 in 1950. Arlington Heights had its largest decade of population growth during the 1950's, an increase of 218% from 8,768 in 1950 to 27,878 in 1960, due to suburban America's growth boom after World War II. By 1970, the population had grown another 133.4% to 65,058. During the next two decades, the population boom slowed, increasing only 1.63% to 66,116 from 1970 to 1980 and 14.13% to 75,460 from 1980 to 1990.

Arlington Heights began as a community of young pioneers and the lower age groups were dominant in the Village through the 1970s. The post World War II baby boom and the large movement of young families from the cities to the suburbs contributed to this dominance. The 1950 Census reported 38.8% of the residents were under 25 years old. By 1960 that percentage increased to 47.6% and increased again to 48.5% in 1970. Residents ages 25-54 made up 46.9% of the Village's population in 1950. This percentage decreased in 1960 to 41.7% and in 1970 to 40.8%. By 1980, the population make-up was beginning to undergo a subtle change, transforming Arlington Heights from a village dominated by youth to a village whose majority of residents were 25 years old and over. Census records show that the percentage of residents under 25 years old dropped to 39.7% in 1980 and 33.3% in 1990. Conversely, the percentage of residents ages 25-54 increased to 43% in 1980 and 46.5% in 1990. The population percentages for residents ages 55-64 and 65 and over show a greater change. In 1950, 8.2% of Arlington Height's residents were age 55-64. The percentage decreased to 5.7% in 1960 and then has increased to 6% in 1970, 9.6% in 1980, and 10.1% in 1990. Statistics for residents age 65 and over show that 7.7% of residents were in that age group in 1950. The percentage dropped to 5% in 1960 and 4.7% in 1970 and then jumped to 7.7% in 1980 and 12.2% in 1990. The median age statistics follow the same pattern, decreasing from 33.3 in 1950 to 27.4 in 1960 and 26.1 in 1970 and then increasing to 32.4 in 1980 and 35.7 in 1990. All of these population changes can be attributed to the drop in the birth rate and the increase in life expectancy.


Population Comparisons






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According to the U.S. Census, the number of households in Arlington Heights has grown from 2,493 in 1950 to 28,810 in 1990. The largest period of growth came between 1950 and 1970, when the number of households increased by 614.2%, from 2,493 to 17,804. Housing development has historically been low density and single-family. However, because of increasing land value and construction costs along with the lesser availability of land area, housing began to favor moderate density and multi-family developments. The average household size has followed the national trend, continuing to decline each year, from a high of 3.8 persons in 1960 to 3.6 persons in 1970, 2.9 persons in 1980, and to 2.6 persons in 1990.

Historical population data on Arlington Heights shows that the majority of Village residents have been Caucasian, 99.9% during the 1950's and 1960's, 99.5% during the 1970's, and 97% in 1980. By 1990, the cultural diversity began to change slightly as shown by census reports of 94.8% Caucasian residents and 5.2% minority residents, with the largest minority group being Asian (3.7%). In addition, residents who are of Hispanic origin continue to increase from 1% in 1970 to 1.7% in 1980 and 2.7% in 1990. According to 1990 census data, more than one-third of all Arlington Heights residents have completed high school and have received a bachelor’s degree from college. Arlington Heights families have also reported a continually increasing household median income, from $4,808 in 1950 to $9,789 in 1960, $17,034 in 1970, $30,025 in 1980, and $51,331 in 1990.

Current Analysis and Trends

Arlington Heights is an attractive, affluent, prestigious community located in the Northwest Corridor of the Chicago Metropolitan area. Based on the 2000 census, Arlington Heights is the third largest suburb in Cook County, the eighth largest suburb in the Chicago metropolitan area, and the twelfth largest community in the State of Illinois. The 2000 Census reports the population to be 76,031, an increase of only .76% from 1990. Many of the statistics reported by Census 2000 will have an impact on the Arlington Heights Park District, including the types of programs that are planned and where and when they are held to how the Park District communicates with residents and employees. There are a number of population trends that should be watched and studied to assess their impact on the Park District.

The decline in population growth is only natural considering that Arlington Heights is a land-locked suburb and the last few large parcels of land were developed with homes and shopping centers during the 1990's. Five large residential developments were completed: Greenwood Place at Rand and Hintz Roads, featuring a combination of single family homes and townhouses; Luther Village, a senior living complex at the Lutheran Home; and three high-rise residential developments in downtown Arlington Heights - Arlington Town Square, Village Green and Metropolis Performing Arts Center. Village planners have said that the 2000 Census did not count all residents of the new downtown condos, as a majority were unoccupied when the census was being conducted, and they predict a population growth between 1,000 and 1,200. However, the Daily Herald reports that one-half of those moving into downtown Arlington Heights are expected to be empty-nesters.

Census 2000 statistics show a shift in the age of Arlington Heights residents. The number of children under age 5 declined by 12.3% to 4,554, following a 41% increase from 1980 to 1990. Conversely, the number of school age children (5-17 year olds) grew by 9.2%, to 13,001, with the largest growth in the 10-14 year olds. College age and young adults ages 18-24 declined by 29%, to 4,537. The number of 25-54 year olds and 55-64 year olds remained relatively stable, with a decline of 3.4%, to 33,870, and an increase of 2.8%, to 7,848, respectively. The biggest changes came in the senior age groups, with ages 65-74 increasing by 14.5%, to 6,015; ages 75-84 increasing by 57%, to 4,355; and ages 85 & over increasing by 53%, to 1,851. The median age of Arlington Heights residents increased by 4 years, to 39.7, largely due to the surge in the population ages 75 and over.

Arlington Heights has clearly followed the national trend of an aging population. The Daily Herald reports that the number of people between the ages of 75 and 84 grew faster in the Northwest suburbs in the past 10 years than in Cook County, the State of Illinois, or the United States. The Chicago Tribune reports there are more older and middle age people, compared with young people, than at any time in United States history, however, they are true pioneers of older living. The generation maintains active, healthier lifestyles before and after retirement and shows less inclination to slow down as they age. The "new-older generation" benefits from improved medicine and medical advances. In addition, as the Daily Herald reports, seniors (age 60+) are staying in their communities as empty-nesters. Instead of moving to warmer climates, the majority are remaining in their own homes or moving into the downtown condominium/apartment developments in order to stay close to family and friends and live in the towns they helped build.

Arlington Heights continues to see growth in the number of minority residents with Asians becoming the largest minority group. Census 2000 data report that 90.6% of the residents are white, followed by 6% Asians, 1% Black or African American, and 2.5% indicating other races. This compares to the 1990 Census statistics of 94.8% white, 3.7% Asian, .6% Black or African American, and .8% other races. The percentage of residents who are of Hispanic origin of any race is 4.5% of the total population in 2000, an increase of 65% since 1990. The number of Arlington Heights residents who were born outside of the United States increased to 10,546, a jump of 50%. Of the population age 5 and over, 17.7% reported speaking a language other than English at home, a 49.6% increase from 1990. More people reported speaking Indo-European languages, followed by Spanish and then Asian/Pacific Island languages.

Census 2000 statistics show Arlington Heights is a stable, family-oriented community. The total number of households increased by 6.8% to 30,763. Family households actually declined in number, but they still make up 66.7% of the total households, while non-family households (the householder living alone or with non-relatives) have increased, making up 33.3% of the total households. The traditional married couple family with children under 18 represented one out of every four total households, while 3.5% of the total households are headed by single parents raising children under 18. One out of every four households include individuals 65 years and over. The average household size in 2000 decreased to 2.44 persons. Of the total occupied housing units, 76.7% are owner-occupied and 23.3% are rented, compared to 1990 statistics of 72.6% owner occupied and 27.4% rented. Only 3% of the total housing units are vacant, a decrease from 5.3% in 1990. Single family homes represent 65% of the total housing units, the same as 1990, and 60.6% of those ages 5 and over lived in the same house in Arlington Heights as they did in 1995, compared to 54.2% in 1985.

According to Census 2000 data, Arlington Heights is a relatively affluent community. The median household income is $67,807, which is a 32.1% increase from $51,331 in 1990. However, when the 1990 median household income is adjusted for inflation, the increase is only 1.25%. Village officials feel that senior housing developments and condominium conversions of apartment complexes during the 1990s, which has kept the older population staying in Arlington Heights longer and living off their retirement incomes, are among the reasons for this small gain. In comparison, the median household income of the State of Illinois is $46,590 and the United States is $41,994. The 2000 median home value rose steadily to $240,600 from $169,100, helped primarily by the successful downtown revitalization.

People who live in Arlington Heights are well educated and the employment rate is high. Almost all residents age 25 and over are high school graduates and almost one half of those are college graduates. Employment statistics show that fewer residents are part of the work force in 2000, 40,866, as compared with 43,136 in 1990, during a period when the population remained relatively stable. Arlington Heights officials feel that this number has declined because of older people moving in and current residents retiring. However, the employment rate remains high, at 65.9%, with 1.6% unemployment. Only 1.6% of Arlington Heights families were considered to be living below the poverty level. Arlington Heights is following the state and national trend of an increase in dual income families, which is creating the need for additional child support services. In 2000, 52.3% of children under age 6 had all parents living at home in the labor force, up from 49.8% in 1990. Also, 66.6% of children ages 6-17 had all parent living at home in the work force, up from 64.2% in 1990.

Village Population

1870: 600

1900: 1,380

1930: 4,997

1950: 8,768

1970: 65,058

1990: 75,460

2000: 76,031

2020: 80,345

  1. "Patterns for Growth," Arlington Heights Planning Department.
  2. U.S. Census Bureau, January 1981
  3. U.S. Census Bureau, January 1991
  4. U.S. Census Bureau, January 2001
  5. Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission.

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