Interpreting Neighborhood Change in Chicago

Problem. The Chicago area is markedly different from just ten years ago. Downtown living has become commonplace with the conversion of office buildings, warehouses and factories into condominiums. New single-family homes have replaced abandoned railyards in the South Loop. Whole neighborhoods have turned around, while others have become targets for speculation by investors trying to predict the next hot area. And, public housing is being demolished and replaced with mixed-income communities.
Change is not without consequence. Spurred by an influx of private capital and public investment, these improvements have forced low-income households to relocate, often involuntarily to other communities and usually into poorer areas to keep housing costs down. In turn, many of these families end up sending children to a new school in the middle of the year and spending more time and money commuting to work and services.

Focus. Changes in a neighborhood can produce many effects. This website aims to help engage people in a discussion of both the positive and negative effects of change witnessed in Chicago's neighborhoods since the 1970s, with attention given to vulnerable lower-income communities.

Findings. The research, which is ongoing, illustrates the many facets of neighborhood change. At the foundation is the US Census data, which when coupled with other data, helps to tell a story of what has happened but also where we are likely to be heading and action that is needed.

Implications. The intent of this research is to enable researchers, community partners and others to discuss policy initiatives in the areas of transportation, criminal justice, health, economic development, housing, education and community development that can begin to address negative effects of uneven development and rapid neighborhood change.


Neighborhood Change Index

Factors. Using data that was in the census, the variables in the index include: Median family income, % Families below poverty, Median house value, % Owner-occupied housing, Race / Ethnicity (White, African American, Latino), % Children age 5-19 (school age children), % Elderly (age 65+)2, % Managers and professionals (of all workers), % Adults with college education, % Children enrolled in private schools, % Female-headed households with dependent children under age 18. Using the 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000 Census data, we compared the data for the 13 factors in each community area to the same factors for the city as a whole. If a factor was positively associated with gentrification, and a community area had a higher value for this factor than the city as a whole, it received a score of +1. If a factor was negatively associated with gentrification and the community area had a lower percentage for this factor than the city as a whole, the area would also receive a score of +1 for that factor. The maximum value a community area could receive would be +13 and the minimum value a community area could receive would be –13.

Typology. Based on the maps and scores for the community areas, we constructed a neighborhood “typology.” The division separated community areas that had changed from those that had not changed, because by definition, gentrification and decline are processes of change. In our analysis we defined significant change as a change in + / – 4 points in the total “score” for a community area, over a period of 10 years.

Chicago Community Area Information. The following links to each community area provide census data for the 13 factors. Click on a community area to view the neighborhood change data and typology. For maps and Excel files of all community areas see below.

O'Hare Belmont Cragin Dunning Austin Edison Park Norwood Park Forest Glen Jefferson Park Portage Park North Park West Ridge Rogers Park Edgewater Lincoln Square Uptown Albany Park Irving Park Lake View North Center Avondale Hermosa Logan Square Lincoln Park West Town Humboldt Park Near North Side The Loop Near West Side North Lawndale East Garfield Park West Garfield Park South Lawndale Gage Park Brighton Park West Lawn Chicago Lawn McKinley Park Ashburn New City Archer Heights West Elsdon Lower West Side Clearing Bridgeport Garfield Ridge West Englewood Hegewisch Calumet Heights South Chicago East Side Burnside Armour Square South Shore Avalon Park Hyde Park Washington Park Grand Boulevard Beverly Mount Greenwood Morgan Park West Pullman Riverdale Douglas South Deering Kenwood Washington Heights Roseland Pullman Oakland Fuller Park Woodlawn Chatham Greater Grand Crossing Auburn Gresham Englewood Near South Side Montclare

Spreadsheets, Maps, and Summary Remarks. The following links provide maps, Excel spreadsheets, and other documents comparing all community areas.

Maps: Age (Children; Elderly); Race (Black, White, Latino); Poverty; Private Schools

Excel Sheets: Gentrification Factors; Typology of Neighborhood Change

Summary Document: "Interpreting Neighborhood Change" (VNC Conference Remarks, April 4, 2003)

Chicago Rehab Network