Comparison of Chicago Neighborhoods

1. Introduction

The huge city of Chicago has almost 1,200,000 people within its invisible walls. Unfortunately, there are these “walls” not only surrounding the city, but surrounding various ethnic neighborhoods. There are 77 communities within Chicago’s borders. Being the large, diverse city that Chicago is, it is still surprising to see such vast spacial boundaries separating people of different nationalities and ethnicities. Through shocking data and research, we can also see a huge difference between how people live in different communities. In this project, I have chosen to focus on four main communities (each community pertains to one ethnic group and has that majority over all others). By analyzing the racial lines of segregation, we can see that some races have different opportunities, more crime, more poverty, and a lot of other hardships. These aren’t stereotypes: they’re facts.

2. Comparison of Chicago Communities
2a. Racial/Ethnic composition

I have chosen to compare four main Chicago neighborhoods: West Garfield Park (the neighborhood with the largest African-American population), Hermosa (largest Latina/o population), Edison Park (largest caucasian population), and Armour Square (largest Asian population). I wanted to chose neighborhoods that drastically represented one certain race without much variance. For a neighborhood to be determined predominantly one race, it must have over a 60% majority over other races within that neighborhood. In Table 1, we can see the four neighborhoods out of the total seventy seven which have the highest population for each racial group that we are discussing. These neighborhoods are not diverse. Where one race has a majority, the rest of the races don’t have higher than a small one-digit percentage, except for Armour Square, which has 11% African American and 12% White. Other neighborhoods, like West Garfield Park have smaller discrepancies, like 0% Asian, 1% White, and 1% Hispanic. We can also see that Hermosa has the largest population, rounding in at 25,000.

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Table 1: Racial/ethnic comparison of Chicago neighborhoods


2b. Socio-economic status of neighborhoods 

The socio-economic status is based on multiple sets of data that have to do with the incomes and earnings of people and families in these various neighborhoods. For this analysis, only the consideration of income was used and not other variables like occupation, poverty levels, or other factors were used. The information for the Quintiles is taken using the information that 42.9% of African Americans are in the <20% of the median income, that 100% of Asians are in the <20%, 41.7% Hispanics are in the 40-59%, and finally 71.4% of Caucasians are in the 80-100% quintile. What Table 2 shows us is that African -Americans in general make less amount of money (lower median income) than other races, and whites make more money (higher median income) than other races. The best comparison to make would be to compare the Median Income of the four main neighborhoods with which quintile that they’re in. As you can see in Table 3, African Americans and Asians are in the lowest quintile for median income.

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Table 2: Range of median incomes in order to categorize the quintiles in order of lowest income to highest income

By comparing Table 1 and Table 3, you can see a correlation between high levels of African Americans and a low income, as well as a correlation between a high population of whites with a high median income. It is interesting also to note that half of African American and the one Asian neighborhood fall into the lowest quintile for median income. Mixed and Caucasian neighborhoods fall into the highest quintile. The Latino/as fall into average income levels and average neighborhoods.

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Table 3: Socio-economic status data for four main neighborhoods. The highest and lowest incomes are highlighted for better comparison.


3. Comparison of Opportunities Available

In comparing the opportunities of various Chicago neighborhoods, I chose to focus on the resources available and hardship levels of the different ethnicities. Community resources are a very important way to expose a neighborhood’s population to diverse thought, education, opportunities and even educational systems and occupations. Community resources and the comparison of violent crimes are a good way to gauge a type of a neighborhood to see how well it’s doing – how many opportunities it provides and how much it enforces safety.

3a. Resources available

My original thought was that a very prominently-white, rich neighborhood would have a great deal of resources available for its population and that lower-class neighborhoods would be lacking in resources. I was actually really shocked to find that the neighborhood with the highest black population, West Garfield Park, had more resources than Edison Park, the neighborhood with the highest white population. The amount of hospitals in West Garfield Park was 5, which is 5 more than any of the other neighborhoods. Even though this may seem counterintuitive at first, I believe it does depict the true nature of the neighborhood. Hospitals cater to those who are sick and wounded, and in poorer neighborhoods, there may be more accidents and people who are ill because of a lack of preventative care. Rich, white neighborhoods like Edison Park would not want to live very close to a hospital because of noise, traffic, and other things that would bother them. In this case, the hospitals they prefer would be outside their own town but still accessible by car or ambulance (usually very expensive, maybe too expensive for West Garfield Park). I would also have assumed that libraries are going to be something very popular in richer neighborhoods where there is a larger emphasis on learner. This wasn’t the case, though. There were very few libraries in any of the cities. I will be using libraries as the overall example of resources through the city as it is an important resource that branches over the needs of education, extra curricular for children, and gaining important skills. I chose to use only these five resources because they seem like the most important ones. Others will be discussed farther in a few paragraphs.

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Table 4: A few resources available to the four main neighborhoods.


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Table 5: Showing the percentage of neighborhoods that have a certain amount of libraries per race-ethnicity.


From Table 5, we can see that in general, a large number of black populations have libraries. Out of the total African-American majority neighborhoods, which is 28 of them, 18 have a library. 10 neighborhoods, or 35% of African American neighborhoods don’t have any libraries. This table should be used as an example of the displacement of resources throughout a neighborhood, where African Americans and poorer ethnicities have less resources than caucasians. The indisputable data evidence shows us: 1) more African American neighborhoods don’t have libraries than Caucasian, 2) more Caucasian neighborhoods have one or 2 libraries than African Americans, 3) none of the neighborhoods except the vague “mixed” neighborhoods have 3 libraries.

Other than libraries, important resources include post offices, police offices, hospitals, firehouses, parks, and more. Libraries is just one example showing that caucasian neighborhoods have more access to resources. Edison Park is not a very good example of a neighborhood with resources, but that does not reflect poorly on the neighborhood. Opposite of that, I believe it is normal for richer people to seek out residences near beautiful green parks (which Edison Park has 4 of, and which no other neighborhood in my main four neighborhoods does). People in those neighborhoods would also want to avoid living too close to a firehouse or police station, but that does not insinuate that the areas are unsafe. While lacking in some of those aspects, Edison Park may not be the best example of a predominately white neighborhood that has really great resources. Lincoln Park, which has a population of 64,116, has 8 parks, 2 post offices, 1 library, 2 firehouses, and 3 transit lines. Transportation is a very important factor in resources since it offers the opportunities of education and employment outside the limited options of the neighborhood. Other distributions of resources include:

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In Figure 1, we can see that 78% of Caucasian neighborhoods have at least one post office, while 53% of black neighborhoods don’t have any post offices. In Figure 2, we can see that only 14% of caucasian neighborhoods don’t have firehouses, while 36% of African American neighborhoods don’t have firehouses. It is not difficult to see the discrepancies between the availability of resources and the majority ethnicity in each neighborhood. 100% of Asian neighborhoods have 2 transit lines (well, there is only one predominately Asian, but it does have access to 2 transit lines) while 53% of African American communities don’t even have access to one transit line. For parks, 35% of white neighborhoods have at least 6 to 8 parks. There is a large frightening number in the police data in Table 5, which ties in really well into the crime aspect of this analysis. The table shows that there is a large number (60%) of African American communities without police offices.

These numbers alone stand up a lot to say that there is a big problem going on with the allocation of resources to people who need them. In general, a rich person (Edison Park residents) would be able to afford a car to get to work. Residents of poorer neighborhoods (West Garfield Park) would need the access to public transportation more than anyone else.

3b. Hardship Levels

From the data collected and analyzed, it is obvious that West Garfield Park has the highest level of hardship among residents. Not only does it receive the highest number in the “hardship index” but there is statistical proof that residents lead difficult lives. There is a high level of crowding in the houses, at 9.4% compared to 1.2% in Edison Park, it has 40.9 households under the poverty line, compared to Edison Park’s 3.5 households, and a significantly lower capita. I use these two examples to contrast against each other because they are the highest and lowest hardships from the four main neighborhoods I use to represent each ethnicity. Using this information, one can come to the conclusion that not only is income an issue, but there are many other underlying issues that affect black populations.

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Table 6: Showing the variables of hardship between four main neighborhoods and their numbers on hardship index.

When choosing what to include in Table 6, I chose to leave out unemployment rates and present them separately. As you can see, the highest number of African American neighborhoods falls into the highest quintile for unemployment, and this number is almost 50%. This, compared to 0 Caucasian neighborhoods falling into the 5th quintile shows the huge gap between the unemployment rates between the genders.

4. Discussion

This analysis of Chicago neighborhoods has only enforced what we have learned since the beginning of this quarter: that racism still exists in the form of spacial segregation. Seeing the statistics, the hard evidence, for a lot of the complaints that we’ve all heard before is definitely something that can make anyone want to change how things are. From only looking at the racial/ethnic and socio-economic perspectives in Part 1, we can definitely see how extremely segregated Chicago is. There are huge polarized differences between the types of people that live together in one neighborhood. Also, there is a greater amount of African American neighborhoods than any other ethnicity. There are 28 predominately black neighborhoods, 22 mixed, 14 Caucasian, 12 Hispanic, and 1 Asian. Since I chose to compare four main neighborhoods which each represented an ethnicity found in Chicago, it is safe to say that the racism and segregation against a neighborhood is also against those people. I am quite shocked that people continue to let this happen, even though a lot of books, studies, and arguments have been raised to question how this still happens.

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I got all of the percentages and other information that wasn’t provided just from simple math. Generally, most of the percentages came from dividing the number of neighborhoods that fall into one of the quintiles against how many neighborhoods with the same predominant ethnicity there are (For example, 13 of the 28 African American neighborhoods comes out to be 46%). Some graphs I chose to merge together where I included other data from graphs that were provided for us separately in order to make my work more presentable.

All of this evidence ties in to work that we have read and discussed this quarter. In several readings, authors have described Chicago as having “ghettos” that are famous around America for their segregation of African Americans (Massey and Denton, 18). Other writings have referred to the “conceptual ambiguities that surround race itself” (Nobles, 11) as a reason for segregation and a lack of effort to fix the issue. This project was a good way to tie in everything we’ve learned and make an interactive way for us to see the issues first had, not having another author telling us about some statistics. I also was able to think about the possibility of the manipulation of data. Just by wording something in one way, you can make the audience consider one thing or vice versa. For example, instead of writing “20% of these people have access to something” I turned it around at said “70% of these people don’t have access to the same thing” which is true but the number is a lot more striking. This made me curious about what the authors of our class’s assignments have been doing.

5. Conclusion

By using this information, we can see that racial-ethnic and socio-economic factors together have a correlation between “rich is white, black is poor” and those makeups of neighborhoods have a correlation between the access of public opportunities, the hardship of the people living there, and other problems that people of lesser economic or social status have to face. Some of the information in the graphs surprised me. For example, I was surprised that West Garfield Park had as many resources as it had. It had some more resources than even Edison Park had. In conclusion, there is still a good deal of segregation happening in Chicago and the effects of it are obviously poor on the poor.


This is a paper I wrote for my Multiculturalism in the U.S. class entitled “Race, Ethnicity, and Housing” in November 2013.

Published by gabriellamikiewicz

Gabriella Mikiewicz is a 20-something Polish-American student and writer whose interests are as eclectic as her apartment decorations.

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