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Diversity or degree? Chicago becomes best-educated city as population shrinks

Chicago is set to continue flourishing as its population becomes more educated. Source: Shutterstock

Chicago is facing an educated epidemic, with predominantly less-educated African-Americans fleeing the area and a white, college-educated population dominating the city.

From 2015 to 2016, Chicago experienced a population loss of 8,638, making it the only major United States city with a shrinking population.

However, the amount of Chicagoans with a bachelor’s degree rose by 9.2 percent in 10 years, the biggest increase across the metro cities, reports Crain’s Chicago Business. This is according to data analysed by Ed Zotti, a demographer who works for the Central Area Committee.

Zotti also found that average household incomes have risen 10 percent in the same period, indicating Chicago is thriving as a city and is sustainably growing alongside US metro destinations.

“This is an aging industrial city. To have it as the most educated city in the top five nationally is a remarkable development,” said Zotti.

So, why, then, is a flourishing Chicago facing a population decrease? Why are people leaving the city en masse? And who are the people that are leaving?

According to the study A Tale of Three Cities: The State of Racial Justice in Chicago, “on virtually every indicator of inequality available, black people in Chicago are doing worse than everyone else, with Latinos not far behind”.

Racial disparity has always prevailed in Chicago, and Zotti’s study reveals the effect of this. A staggering 42,000 African-Americans chose to leave the city in 2016 alone.

Although he found that 18,000 black Americans with bachelor degrees have set up home in the city over the past six years, the city is still facing a rapid loss of its black community in favour of a richer, college educated population.

“The city of Chicago is an absolute magnet if you have resources such as a high level of education and marketable skills,” said Rob Paral, a Chicago-based expert in community development, human services and immigrant integration.

“[But] if you are an African-American resident of the city without a college education, the data shows that you have a good chance of choosing to leave and joining an astounding exodus of blacks.” 

Alden Loury, who works for the Metropolitan Planning Council said: “My guess is that higher-income black folks and more-educated black folks have more reasons to stay and the wherewithal to stay,

“Their lives are more stable; they’re more likely to live in middle-class communities with better education and employment options and a stable economic base.

“I think the data also suggests that the city is attracting young tech and other professionals of all races and ethnicities in recent years, including African-Americans.”

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