Data Points: Chicago's segregation isn't just in the city - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Data Points: Chicago's segregation isn't just in the city

Flickr user Lisa Padilla (CC)

Many suburban communities in Chicagoland lost population in 2015, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

Chicago wasn’t the only municipality in the region to lose population last year. More than two-thirds of the 300 Illinois cities, towns and villages in the Chicago metro area lost population between 2014 and 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 population estimates, released last month.

Chicago also isn’t the only municipality dealing with segregation. A closer look at these suburban municipalities suggests that the region’s long-standing segregation patterns are holding firm, while communities of color are struggling the most with population loss. These trends could have far-reaching effects on addressing the region’s challenges with growth and equity.

The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) compared Census 2014 racial demographic data, the most recent available, for 300 Illinois suburbs in the Chicago region to Census 2010 figures. We found that, in most places, the growth of racial or ethnic minority populations is coupled with a decline in white population and vice versa.

Between 2010 and 2014, among the 215 Chicago-area suburbs that witnessed an increase in minority population, 73 percent of those municipalities also witnessed a decrease in white population during that span. And among the 90 Chicago-area suburbs that witnessed a decline in minority population, 77 percent of those municipalities also witnessed an increase in white population.

This juxtaposition of white and minority growth only helps to perpetuate the region’s historic battle with segregation. It also suggests that many racially diverse cities, towns and villages in the region are merely in a state of transition from mostly white to mostly minority.

For instance, in 2000, there were 10 suburbs with no racial or ethnic majority. By 2010, six of them were either majority black or majority Latino. The other four suburbs all saw dramatic declines in white population, ranging from 16 percent to 43 percent.

No suburbs changed to majority white. In fact, the only additional majority white suburbs created in the region between 2000 and 2010 resulted from the incorporations of seven new municipalities, mostly on the outskirts of the region.

In some suburbs, the transitions are occurring much faster, reminiscent of the shifts witnessed in Chicago during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when demographic majorities in Chicago community areas often changed within the span of a decade.

Between 2000 and 2010, six majority white suburbs flipped to majority Latino, including west suburban Berwyn and northwest suburban Carpentersville, according to Census data. Three more majority white suburbs became majority black during that decade, all of them in the south suburbs, including Park Forest and Sauk Village.

As a result of these transitions, the number of minority suburbs is growing.

In 2000, there were 21 majority black and three majority Latino Illinois municipalities in the Chicago region, according to MPC’s analysis of Census data. By 2010, there were 26 majority black and 13 majority Latino cities, towns and villages.

This increasing number of majority-minority suburbs is a phenomenon that could impact efforts to attract growth and investment in some parts of the region. Just as heavily segregated minority neighborhoods on Chicago’s South, Southwest and West sides have struggled with job creation and economic development the past several decades, isolated minority suburbs could witness similar challenges in coming years. A quick review of last month’s 2015 census population estimates provides an illustration.

While two-thirds of majority white suburbs lost population last year, more than 90 percent of majority black and majority Latino suburbs declined in population, according to MPC’s analysis. Berwyn, Cicero and Waukegan suffered the greatest declines among majority Latino suburbs, each losing more than 300 people last year. Calumet City lost nearly 200 people last year, the most of any majority black suburb. Majority black Maywood and Harvey were next, with each declining by more than 125 residents from 2014 to 2015.

It is clear that reversing the tide of segregation will mean addressing decades-long trends that continue to this very day not only in Chicago but throughout the metro area. MPC is currently working with the Urban Institute to assess the collective cost of segregation on the entire Chicago region. The premise of our study is that segregation hurts all of us no matter where we live in the region.

That work is ongoing, but we will share the results of the Urban Institute’s research this fall. From there, we will continue our ongoing conversations with community stakeholders to surface ways to address our region’s segregation—and mitigate its effects for the future.

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