The Cost of Segregation - Metropolitan Planning Council

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The Cost of Segregation

Examining the price the Chicago region pays for racial and economic isolation

MPC and Urban Institute are conducting a two-year study based on the hypothesis that by reducing segregation, Chicago and our region will experience faster economic growth and a more equitable quality of life. First phase of the report will be released Tuesday, March 28, 2017.


Chicago consistently ranks among America's top segregated regions. Like many U.S. metropolitan regions, historic and ongoing systemic racism has blurred the lines between racial and economic segregation; today, our poorer residents are disproportionately people of color living in communities of concentrated poverty. While the disadvantages of living in concentrated poverty have been well documented, there is less evidence of the disadvantages of segregation to a region as a whole. MPC and Urban Institute's study rests on the premise that not only low-income people and communities pay the price, but that segregation hampers the economy and quality of life for everyone living in metropolitan Chicago.


Emily Cikanek

Together with Urban Institute and a team of local and regional policy advisors, MPC is embarking on a two-year, groundbreaking study to identify the cost of our region's racial and economic segregation and test policies that would reduce this cost and unlock our full potential. Our driving questions are: What does it cost us all—those living in concentrated poverty and those in concentrated wealth—to live so separately from each other by race and income? And, what policies can we adopt to reduce Chicago's segregation?

What does it cost us all to live so separately from each other?

We will report our findings in two parts:

    • Report 1: We will rank metropolitan Chicago among the top 100 metropolitan regions, comparing each city's economic and racial segregation as well as its performance on key economic indicators, such as per capita income, educational attainment, life expectancy and homicides. Based on regions that are performing better relative to Chicago on key indicators, we will develop an ideal scenario for metropolitan Chicago in 20 years and compare our economic performance under that scenario with our economic performance if we continue along current growth trajectories. The difference between the two will be the cost of continuing the pattern of our city and region's segregation.
    • Report 2: We will develop and model housing, transportation, economic, health, safety and education policy interventions that set us on the path toward less segregation, greater equity and a more productive economy. These policies will define a future city, county and regional advocacy agenda.


Our work will point to policies that:

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Urban Institute


The Chicago Community Trust
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation