|Homes in Chicago’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood on the South Side. It’s a community that was once strongly middle class but has become considerably poorer since 2000. I lived there until 1995. Source: wttw.org|
Last week I was fortunate to be a part of a fantastic symposium, called Policies to Promote Inclusive Urban Growth. It was held in Dallas at the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University, and the event also served as the public release of a report which I worked on, Beyond Gentrification: Towards More Equitable Urban Growth, published by the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (If you get a chance I encourage you to check out the video of the event, found at the first link above). The report took a look a recent development activity and their impacts in three very different cities: Chicago, Los Angeles and Dallas.
As you might expect, I worked on the Chicago portion of the project. My work followed what’s become a familiar theme to regular readers here — Chicago is a study in contrasts. I found that it’s becoming wealthier while simultaneously increasing its impoverished areas. It’s becoming exceedingly expensive and astonishingly vacant, more educated and less educated, all at the same time. How so? The city has drawn in and concentrated affluent new residents along the city’s beautiful lakefront, but there’s been continual decline in many of the city’s neighborhoods, particularly on the South and West sides. It’s become the prime example of a bifurcated city, gaining high-income and retaining low-income residents, while squeezing out those in the middle. This has most directly impacted Chicago’s black middle class living on the South and West sides, leading to a decline of the city’s black population by 25% since 2000, the leading edge of Chicago’s 7% population decline since 2000. Chicago’s concentration of revitalization is a concern.
But there’s some analysis I conducted that didn’t make the final report.
We used data from the U.S. Census and American Community Survey to evaluate conditions within the respective cities. I used that, and data aggregated by Chicago Community Area (CCAs) by Rob Paral (robparal.com) from 1990, 2000 and 2008-2012 (the five-year ACS estimate that can broadly be used as 2010 data) to look at population, households and income by CCAs.
First, I took a median household income measure for all 77 CCAs in 1990, 2000 and 2008-12 and grouped them in three categories — high income, meaning a CCA had a median household income above the Chicago metro area’s median household income; middle income, meaning a CCA’s median household income was between the city’s median and the metro’s median; and low income, meaning a CCA’s median was below the city’s median. Here are those thresholds, all in 2017 dollars:
I know, I know, those numbers aren’t really grounded in any real measure of socio-economic status, but they’re real enough to use as points on a spectrum.
So we’ve established the thresholds. Here’s how the CCAs look on a map at the 1990, 2000 and 2008-12 intervals, with green representing the high income areas, yellow indicating middle income areas, and blue used to show low income areas: