Friday, September 5, 2014

Crain's: Where does Chicago's black middle class live?

Click for larger resolution
In April of this year we posted an animated map showing Chicago's vanishing middle-class. It was from the City Notes website who's author - Daniel Kay Hertz - wrote a recent op-ed to Crain's Chicago Business. That earlier map was interesting as it tracked the income of the many census tracts that make up the City of Chicago.

Now with the map you see above we show a different tact: Where does Chicago's Black middle-class live?

To be sure, the Black middle-class lives throughout the city. They no longer just live in Chatham or Pill Hill although perhaps they were never the exclusive home of the Black middle-class. The maps shown in the Crain's op-ed seems to show the Black-led middle-class households but mainly measures them as a percentage or as numbers. Also they show maps of Asian, Latino, or white middle-class households in Chicago.

Even Mr. Hertz will admit that the maps provided are misleading and it's hard for me to believe that in some of the community areas there are Black middle-class people in those areas that aren't largely Black. The map you see above I would consider much more accurate.

Hertz offer these brief notes:

1. The black middle class exists in Chicago. In large numbers. This shouldn't really be news, but speaking in my capacity as a white person who knows a lot of white people and other people of various ethnic backgrounds from the North Side and suburbs and other parts of the country/world, it really is.

2. Perhaps even more important, the vast majority of Chicagoans who are both black and middle-class live on the South Side and, to a lesser extent, the West Side.

3. The concentration of middle-class households varies dramatically from one black neighborhood to another.

4. Still, the majority of Chicagoans who are middle-class and black live in neighborhoods that are mostly not middle-class — as opposed to Chicagoans who are middle-class and white, for whom the opposite is true. In this way, Chicago is pretty similar to the rest of the country.

The takeaway for me is that these maps contradict two of the biggest lies — or, if we're being kind, misconceptions — about the social geography of Chicago. The first is that the black neighborhoods of the South and West sides are an undifferentiated landscape of economic hardship. This is false in a couple of ways. For one, though there are many people who are suffering for want of a decent wage in these areas, there are also many thousands of households that are not (though they are likely still disadvantaged by other consequences of segregation, including poor access to jobs and basic amenities, higher crime, lower-performing schools, etc.).
And here's another good point:
 From a governance perspective, there are lots of reasons you'd want the people in charge of a city to have an accurate impression of the communities they're governing before they start making up policies for them. But also, from a purely social point of view, the fact that most non-black Chicagoans — and the vast majority of non-Chicagoans — can't distinguish between the poorest pockets of the city and places like Calumet Heights or Park Manor means that they won't ever visit, spend money and certainly won't consider living in neighborhoods that they likely would find generally pleasant. In short, it's hard to build much of a local economy in a place that 75 percent of the population shuns without even thinking about it.
Something to think about. Even then, what could residents of these "shunned" communities do to attract people to their neighborhoods even to just visit?

You should read the whole thing when you get an opportunity.

No comments:

Post a Comment

PLEASE READ FIRST!!!! Comment Moderating and Anonymous Comment Policy

While anonymous comments are not prohibited we do encourage you to help readers identify you so that other commenters may respond to you. Either read the moderating policy for how or leave an identifier (which could be a nickname for example) at the end of the comment.

Also note that this blog is NOT associated with any public or political officials including Alderman Roderick T. Sawyer!