A Deepening Divide: Income Inequality Grows Spatially in Chicago

By: Lauren Nolan, AICP

A recent study completed by the Brookings Institution ranks Chicago 8th in income inequality among the nation’s largest cities. Yet, there is more to Chicago’s inequality story. Research completed by The Voorhees Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago in partnership with Cities Centre at the University of Toronto reveals that not only has inequality in Chicago been growing over the last 40 years, it also exhibits strong spatial patterns. Chicago is now a highly-polarized city absent of middle class households that in 1970 made up nearly half the city. By 2010, the number of wealthy census tracts had increased nearly four-fold with a visible concentration on Chicago’s North Side, while tracts that are very low-income and with high rates of poverty expanded on the South and far West sides.

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