Chicago consistently ranks among America's top segregated regions. Like many U.S. metropolitan regions, historical 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 all of a region's residents. 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. Therefore, all must be part of the solution.
Eric Allix Rogers
The Metropolitan Planning Council, together with Urban Institute and a team of policy advisors, is leading a groundbreaking, two-year research and policy initiative. The first part of our study, which is available now, reveals that segregation holds back the entire Chicago region's economy and potential, costing all of us.
In the second phase of the study, we will work with advisors to identify solutions for creating an integrated, equitable and economically stronger metropolitan Chicago. 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:
Improve options for families of all incomes. We believe it is possible to invest strategically in both high- and low-income communities so that fewer people must choose between affordable housing and other factors that contribute to a high quality of life, such as living wage jobs, well performing schools, safe streets and reasonable commutes.
- Grow Chicago's middle class. Over the past five years, 96 percent of Chicago's anemic growth has been non-families, or singles. It's also true that the number of Chicagoans at the high and low ends of the income spectrum have grown while the number of middle-income earners has shrunk. We are examining policies that would foster a thriving middle class in the Chicago region, which is necessary to sustain successful public schools, infrastructure, retailers and the service and entrepreneurial economies.
- Support integrated and successful public schools. There are a range of public schools in the Chicago region that are performing well. Some are racially and economically integrated; others are not. What can we learn from them all?
- Maintain and expand Chicago's diverse economy. Places where low- and high-skilled workers live and work near one another fare better because they have the full range of human capital necessary for a diverse economy. As an economic imperative, we are exploring policies that support integrated communities.
- Improve people's safety and well-being. Many factors contribute to high rates of crime, mortality and disease, which disproportionately affect low-income communities but carry huge costs for everyone. We will focus on policies that support community design and development that lead to safer, healthier neighborhoods.