Face of City Has Changed Dramatically, Census Estimates Show
The electorate that will soon choose the successor to Mayor Richard M. Daley looks a lot different than the voters who first put him in office more than two decades ago.
An analysis of recently released United States Census Bureau estimates by the Chicago News Cooperative shows how racial and ethnic communities have continued to shift dramatically during the past decade in a city long known for its kaleidoscopic population and segregated neighborhoods.
As the mayoral candidates campaign ahead of the Feb. 22 election, campaign strategists determining where they will focus their efforts will have to be mindful of three trends:
¶The city’s black population fell by about 11 percent between 2000 and 2009, a pattern reflected in many neighborhoods across the South and West Sides. Twenty-four of the 25 city-designated community areas with the largest black populations in 2000 saw declines, according to the analysis of the five-year population estimates for 2005-9.
¶There was a marked rise in the white population in some of the city’s priciest neighborhoods in and near downtown. In the Near South Side community, the number of whites more than tripled in nine years.
¶Estimates of the city’s overall white population increased only modestly because of large declines in their numbers on the Northwest and Southwest Sides. Meanwhile, Hispanics continued to supplant whites in the bungalow belt.
When the federal government releases its official 2010 census data in the coming months, it will confirm that every racial and ethnic group in the city is a minority —no single group will make up a majority of Chicago’s roughly 2.85 million residents.
Given Chicago’s election system, which requires the new mayor to garner an outright majority of the vote, the winner will need support from many voters of other races, forcing candidates to seek backing throughout the city.
According to the 2009 estimates, whites and blacks each represent almost one-third of the city’s population, while Hispanics have held steady at about 27 percent and Asians rose slightly to comprise a little more than 5 percent of Chicagoans.
Although demographers caution against drawing firm conclusions until the final 2010 census data is reported, it appears that whites could be the biggest racial group in the city for the first time since the 1980 census.
The 2000 census showed that the city gained population in the 1990s for the first time in a half-century. But during the past decade the decreasing black population, with only modest growth in the white and Hispanic numbers, means an overall loss of about 45,000 residents, according to the 2009 census estimates.
Some of the most dramatic drops in black population came in sections of the city where the Chicago Housing Authority’s “Plan for Transformation” led to the demolition of high-rise public housing. A section of the Riverdale area on the far south side, which included the Altgeld Gardens development, registered the biggest loss of blacks, from nearly 9,500 a decade ago to scarcely more than 5,000 in the latest statistics.
Large declines also were reported in many other black neighborhoods, from South Shore to Austin, where the black community has lost an estimated 17 percent of its 2000 population.
“Black fertility is down quite a bit,” not only in Chicago but also across the country, said Kenneth Johnson, a former Loyola University professor who is senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute.
The 2009 estimates show gains for black communities in suburbs including Matteson, Calumet City, South Holland and Lansing. But there was an overall drop in the black population of the Chicago metropolitan area.
A Brookings Institute study released in May highlighted a broader migration of blacks toward the South, noting that the Atlanta area recently surpassed Chicago as the second-largest black community in the country, after New York.
“This is part of a continued shift of blacks to the South that we are seeing nationally,” said William Frey, a Brookings Institute demographer. “Some of the decline in the black population of the city is suburbanization, but the census data could show a net outmigration of blacks from the Chicago area as a whole.”
At the same time, the latest gentrification wave that began in the mid-1990s might translate into a slight increase in the white population of the city.
Whites are almost as numerous as blacks now in the Near West Side community area, which is home to about 52,000 people. Between 2000 and 2009, the white population there almost doubled, to more than 20,000, as the area’s black and Hispanic communities shrank.
The community area where the white population is up by the largest number was West Town, northwest of the Loop. When the real estate market was booming, many longtime Hispanic residents seized the opportunity to sell to developers who demolished many old houses and built condominiums, said Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno, whose 1st Ward includes much of West Town.
“Hispanics are moving further northwest,” Mr. Moreno said.
He echoed Mr. Johnson’s analysis that many young adults who moved to the city are not going to the suburbs after marrying, as they historically would do, because they are now finding it difficult to sell their condos.
The increase in the young white population near downtown was offset to a great extent by continued white flight and aging in the more working-class sections closer to the edges of the city, which were long known as “white ethnic” neighborhoods. According to the 2009 estimates, the number of whites fell by more than 5,000 in each of four community areas: Portage Park, Belmont Cragin, Ashburn and West Lawn.
Since 2000, Archer Heights became the latest swath of the Southwest Side bungalow belt where Hispanics have become the majority. This trend also intensified in other neighborhoods along Archer Avenue.
In the Brighton Park neighborhood, Five Holy Martyrs Catholic Church was such a center of local Polish life that Pope John Paul II held mass there during his visit to Chicago in 1979.
The congregation remains almost entirely Polish, though few parishioners live in the area. “They’re in the suburbs,” said the Rev. Wojciech Baryski, the parish pastor. “They come, pray, and leave.”
Just a few blocks away, the congregation at Immaculate Conception is now almost entirely Mexican.
“There are still a few Anglos,” said the Rev. Tom Koys. “Some get to know their neighbors and become pretty good friends, but by and large I think the English-speaking, non-immigrant community is going through sort of an identity crisis.”
Despite huge increases in many sections of the city, the overall Hispanic population appears to have grown only slightly after dramatic increases in previous decades. The analysis of census data found losses of more than 10,000 Hispanics in Logan Square and South Lawndale, which includes the heavily Mexican Little Village neighborhood.
The Hispanic population boom in the suburbs of Chicago, however, has continued unabated. Only high birth rates have kept the city’s Hispanic community from getting smaller, Mr. Johnson said. “There is a net migration loss of Hispanics from the city,” he said.
Mr. Johnson said the situation is because of young immigrants who bypass the city entirely for service-industry work in suburbs such as Wheeling as well as more established families “who started in Hispanic areas of the city and are moving out of Chicago.”
“As whites flow further out, Hispanics are flowing in to take their place,” Mr. Johnson said. “It’s the immigrant story that is as old as Chicago.”
Mick Dumke contributed reporting.