Who Can Live in Chicago? Part I

By Jessica Kursman and Nick Zettel

In celebration of our 40th anniversary, and in response to the growing income inequality in Chicago, the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center is working to answer the question “Who Can Live in Chicago?”. We will be releasing a series of forthcoming reports on income inequality to unpack this question. Below please find a prelude to our research: 

Who Can Live in Chicago?

The Nathalie P. Voorhees Center analyzed change in income in the seven-county Chicago Metropolitan Region from 1970-2016, assessing each Census Tract’s average per capita income relative to the region at different points in time. As this map illustrates, Chicago is growing more segregated by income over time and losing its middle class.

The following animated GIF below displays a time lapse sequence of change in average individual income by decadal increments, between the years 1970-2016.


We followed the University of Toronto Three Cities methodology to map out the spatial distribution of wealth over time to identify three distinct cities:

  • City One includes all Census Tracts that increased their proportion of regional income by 20 percent (622,099 people);
  • City Three includes all Census Tracts that decreased their proportion of regional income by 20 percent (1,344,751 people); and
  • City Two includes all Census Tracts that did not increase or decrease their proportion more or less than 20 percent (770,277 people).

Three Cities_RedYellowBlue

Using the three cities, we then looked at race, income by race, age and families.


Race Demographics

Between the years 2010-2016*, City One gained over 43,000 white individuals and lost over 5,000 African American individuals. In stark contrast, City Three’s African American population decreased by nearly 60,000 individuals, and City Two’s African American population decreased by nearly 16,000 individuals.

Income by Race

These trends become even more important to watch when we look at income. In 2016, more than one-third of City Three’s African American population earned less than $20,000, and more than half earned less than $35,000. In City One, 45% of the white population earned more than $100,000. In fact, within Chicago overall, nearly 70% of households earning more than $100,000 were white, while more than half of households earning less than $20,000 were African American.


Age is unevenly distributed across Chicago. City One has the largest share of residents between the ages 20 and 34. The majority of City Two residents are between ages 35 and 64 while City Three is predominantly composed of young people under 19.


Between 2010 and 2016, City Two and City Three lost more than 47,000 families with children under 18, while City One gained more 5,500 families with children under 18. Still, City Two and City Three contain many more families (506,000+) with children under 18 in comparison to City One (90,000+). Additionally, both cities Two and Three contain many large families in Chicago. More than one-third of families in City Two are comprised of four or more people, while almost half of families in City Three are comprised of four or more people. In contrast, half of City One is families with only two people.

What do you think?

We would like to hear your thoughts on what these data suggest to you. Please take a few minutes to answer a few questions (anonymously of course).

Stay tuned…there will be more coming soon!

* 2010 and 2016 represent American Community Survey (ACS) five-year estimates. 2010 represents ACS five year estimates from 2006-2010. 2016 represents ACS five-year estimates from 2012-2016. The Voorhees Center used five-year estimates in accordance with the U.S. Census Bureau recommendation for precision and analyzing Census tracts.

** The US Census defines a family as a group of two people or more (one of whom is the householder) related by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing together; all such people (including related subfamily members) are considered as members of one family.


The Chicago Region is a Leader in Food and Beverage Production

by Zafer Sonmez

Chicago has a storied economic reputation for manufacturing, transportation, and distribution, but did you know that the Chicago Region is also a leader in the food and beverage industry? This blog post examines the employment and occupations trends in the food and beverage manufacturing industry [1] in the Chicago Region,[2] and compares them with the top 10 U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs).[3] The most current employment estimates released by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate that the Chicago Region ranks first in food and beverage manufacturing [4] in terms of employment in 2016 (Fig 1).[5] A historical analysis of employment levels shows that the region has been in the top position along with the Los Angeles Region for the last ten years. With 1,379 business establishments, the industry currently employs over 56,000 people, making it the second largest manufacturing sector in terms of employment (after fabricated metal manufacturing). Continue reading

EDA University Center @ UIC

The EDA University Center @ UIC was launched in mid-December 2016 with a five-year investment by the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA). The EDA Center is housed in the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement (Voorhees Center) in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs (CUPPA) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

The mission of the EDA is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. To promote its economic development mission, EDA leverages the resources of academic institutions by designating them as EDA University Centers; the EDA University Center @ UIC joins more than 40 university centers across the nation. Continue reading

O*NET OnLine: The interactive occupational information network (Part II)

By Zafer Sonmez 

An earlier blog post described the online tools and information provided by O*NET Online.  This post focuses on how workforce development agencies and potentially economic development policy makers could utilize O*NET data.

The core mission of workforce development agencies is to help workers and businesses transition in a changing economy. These agencies constantly strive to align their policies and programs with projected labor market demands. They also try to influence future demand by increasing the supply of workers with certain skill sets, with the end goal of aiding the growth of targeted industries (e.g. green industries) in a region.

O*NET provides key components of the data needed in this process. Below I discuss three specific areas where O*NET OnLine could be a primary data source for workforce development agencies in advancing their goals. Continue reading

O*NET OnLine: The interactive occupational information network (Part I)

By Zafer Sonmez

This is the first of two blog posts exploring O*Net Online, and how it can be useful for workforce development agencies in advancing our green economy (Part II is here). The online tools and information provided by O*NET, the occupational information network, and its complementary databases can help with defining green occupations and analyzing skill gaps, transferability and educational requirements.

The transition to a green economy is causing big changes in employment demand and worker requirements such as tasks, skills, knowledge, and credentials. In this process, the importance of systematic, up-to-date data is critical in advancing workforce development goals. Continue reading

Raising minimum wage to $15 would increase tax revenue by $2.4 billion in Illinois AND increase housing affordability

Raising the minimum wage stands to impact Illinois workers’ ability to sustain families and cover expenses including high housing costs. Whether in the form of rent or mortgage payments and maintenance costs, housing costs make up the largest monthly expense for most households. However, a common concern is that raising minimum wage may actually increase unemployment.

Findings from our report The Impact of a Minimum Wage Increase on Housing Affordability in Illinois suggest that raising the minimum wage will not only increases housing affordability, it will raise tax revenue and have minimal impact on employment levels. This report is timely, as minimum wage bills make their way through the legislative process. Continue reading

Transformed? Public Housing in Chicago 2000-2015

by Andrew Greenlee (Assistant Professor, Urban and Regional Planning, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Janet Smith (Associate Professor, Urban Planning and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago)

The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) launched its Plan for Transformation (pdf) (PFT) in 2000. This included demolishing and replacing most of the large family projects on Chicago’s south and west sides with lower density, mixed income communities.

The PFT, initially a 10-year plan focused on redeveloping 25,000 units, is still working towards this goal after 15 years. According to the 2015 data from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), 21,285 public housing units have been completed and 17,673 are occupied. According to the CHA, there are ten new projects in the pipeline.

As the CHA moves forward, a new ordinance is being considered. The City of Chicago Keeping the Promise Ordinance aims to “strengthen City Council oversight of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) in order to maximize the impact of the public resources under the CHA’s stewardship and to increase housing options for low-income households in opportunity communities.” Seeking to better coordinate city planning efforts and resources, the ordinance aims to help to increase the housing choices available to low-income residents including those residing in public housing.

Continue reading