General Iron Move to Southeast Side Triggers Racial Equity Concerns

By Nicholas Zettel and Jessica Kursman

Scrap metal shredder General Iron has announced they are are moving from their current Lincoln Park site to a proposed site bordering the South Deering and Hegewisch community areas in 2020. The move would disproportionately impact Latinos, single female mothers, children under 18, elderly individuals over 65, and low-income residents.

The move coincides with developer Sterling Bay’s proposed Lincoln Yards project, which is transforming the near-north side’s Planned Manufacturing District from its historic industrial landscape into a mix of residential, commercial, and entertainment uses.

In a recent Chicago Tribune article, General Iron’s crisis communications specialist, Randall Samborn, cited the smaller population surrounding the proposed site to suggest that General Iron will be farther from residents. According to the Samborn, about 6,800 people live within a mile of the Southeast Side site, compared with about 47,500 who live that close to the scrap shredder’s current operation west of Clybourn Avenue between North Avenue and Cortland Street.”

While it is true that residential uses surrounding the proposed Lake Calumet site are less dense than those in Lincoln Park, this narrative overlooks the differences in the populations of the proposed Southeast site and the current Lincoln Park location. When compared with the existing Lincoln Park site, residents living within one mile from the proposed site are more likely to be identified as Latino; under the age of 18; older than age 65; and a female-headed householder with children present.

Latino and Low-Income Residents Disproportionately Impacted

Residents identified as Latino will be more impacted by the proposed General Iron site than any other demographic group. Within a one mile radius of the proposed General Iron site, more than 67 percent of the population is identified as Hispanic or Latino, compared to approximately 10 percent of the population within a mile radius of the existing Lincoln Park site*.

The proposed General Iron site is also within a neighborhood with notably lower incomes than the current site. The Lincoln Park site household income is $69,000 –more than three times that near the proposed Southeast side site ($20,000).

 HL_GeneralIron [Converted]

Female Headed Households and Youth Disproportionately Impacted

Additionally, female residents and young residents are disproportionately represented near the proposed site. Specifically, within a one mile radius of the existing General Iron site, slightly more than 15% of residents are younger than age-18, while nearly 27% of residents within one mile of the Lake Calumet site are younger than 18 years old.

 U18_GeneralIron [Converted]

Furthermore, single-female households will be disproportionately affected by the move. An estimated 30 percent of Southeast side households within a mile radius of the proposed General Iron site are female-headed households with people under age-18 present. In contrast, approximately 5 percent of households surrounding the Lincoln Park site are headed by single women.

Table.pngSource: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, Five-Year Estimates, 2012-2016; ESRI ArcGIS 10.5.1.

Land Use and Vulnerable Populations in the Calumet Region

The proposed move offers an opportunity to consider specific population needs of young and elderly residents, residents living in poverty, and single-parent households. Furthermore, the move illuminates a greater conversation of environmental and racial equity as it pertains to land use and zoning in the Calumet Region.

*U.S. Census American Community Survey 2012-2016 estimates


Proposed CPS Budget Reveals Geographic Disparities in Investment

By Jeffrey Wozencraft, Jessica Kursman, and Nick Zettel

As part of our ongoing research on growing income inequality in Chicago entitled “Who Can Live in Chicago?”, the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center investigated Chicago Public Schools investment into schools by ward since 2013. This is a follow-up to our blog on age distribution that found that majority of young people in Chicago are non-white and living in lower income communities. When looking at the location of schools with unmet capital investment needs, the data suggests these same communities and young people are likely attending schools with the most unmet needs.

Key findings include:

According to annual CPS budget data and the CPS 2013 Needs Assessment – the most recent publicly available needs assessment of all facility needs – there appears to be geographic disparities in how 2013-2018 budget appropriations have been made to meet investment needs by ward.

The 2019 proposed budget continues to demonstrate a mismatch between budgeted priorities and actual investment need by ward (See Map and Table Below). For example, when including the CPS 2019 proposed budget, data shows that Ward 8 in the Chatham Community Area has only received just 9% of its investment needs, while investment in Ward 41 in the Northwest Chicago has received 135% of its investment needs.

Applying race and income to this investment analysis deepens the conversation of disparity.

For instance, according to the Chicago Rehab Network’s 2014 Affordable Housing Factbook, Ward 8 has a population that is over 70% Black and has a median household income of less than $40,000 a year. In contrast, Ward 41 is majority white, and has a median household income of $68,000.

The 2019 proposed budget is the largest budget released in the past 5 years. Yet, the last publicly available CPS Needs Assessment, which has a detailed analysis of all facilities, was conducted in 2013. Without an updated needs assessment that captures current total need for investment in school facilities, it is impossible to gauge whether the 2019 Budget is accurately prioritizing its investment – whether by ward or school. This, obviously, has profound implications for our city’s children and communities.




Photo by Jessica Kursman

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.