Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Ever Shrinking Chicago - Census Results


One of my favorite past times while riding the L is to read the random newspapers and magazines that people leave lying on the seats.  Lord knows, I would never pick up a copy of the Red Eye otherwise, and I rarely read the Sun Times.  I find that I learn a great deal about local news this way.

Today’s headline is that Chicago has lost more than 200,000 people over the last decade, according to the most recent census data that’s been released.  I find that kind of fascinating, because this same time period (2000-2010) also coincides with one of the largest building booms in the city’s history.  I think it’s a testament to how much the housing bubble truly was a bubble, that all this construction occurred at a time when the city, it turns out, was losing residents.

Apparently the largest losses were in the African American community, and particularly middle class African Americans, many of whom have fled to the south suburbs.  The Sun Times points to the destruction of Cabrini Green and other public housing projects for this loss, but this doesn't entirely make sense-- middle class African American's were not living in public housing.  Regardless, this is not a good statistic for the African American community or the city as a whole.

Here's how the demographics break down (from the Sun Times):

White non-hispanic: down -5.8%
Black or African American: down -16.7%
Hispanic or Latino: up +3.3%
Asian: up +16.8% (still only 5% of the population though)

Our total population dropped -6.9%, erasing gains made in the 1990s when the population of the city increased by 4%.  Of course, we still have 2.6 million people living in the city limits, so it's not like Chicago is becoming a cow town.

Interestingly, the outer suburbs are booming, with cities like Round Lake and Plainfield having over 200% population growth.  Really, Plainfield?  To each his own.

Further reading: Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Tribune.

Now, for no reason in particular other than it fits the shrinking theme, I'm including a photo of the model train set at the Museum of Science and Industry, showing part of the Loop:

mini lake street

Photo Details: Nikon D50 with Nikkor 50mm f1.8 lens, 1/100sec at f2, ISO800.  Taken in 2007.  The top photo was taken with a Canon S95.  I carried the two newspapers off the train with me and photographed them on my desk.

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