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Today’s numbers are shrinking

Friday, Apr 4, 2014

* Daniel Kay Hertz documented Chicago’s shrinking middle class since 1970 by measuring each Census tract’s median family income as a percentage of the median family income for the Chicago metropolitan region as a whole. The gray areas are defined as middle class on the map tracts. Check it out

If the gif images aren’t advancing on your browser, click here.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - wordslinger - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 12:57 pm:

    Just as striking as the loss of middle-class neighborhoods on the West and South sides is the growth of the green, uber-wealthy neighborhoods along the north lakefront.

    More and more, a tale of two cities.

  2. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 12:59 pm:

    Great work Daniel, great post Rich.

    You may also like this one:

    County by county migration data going back 60 years.

  3. - Wensicia - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 12:59 pm:

    More striking is the expanding division between the wealthy and the less well off.

  4. - PMcP - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 1:03 pm:

    Saw this the other day. I’m not sure it shows the destruction of the middle class, rather it illustrates the concentration of wealth. People may in fact be better off across all areas, income-wise, but not enough information to say whether the middle-class is smaller.

  5. - 47th Ward - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 1:04 pm:

    This demographic shift has been playing out across the country for 40 years, it’s just very neatly mapped in Chicago.

    Inequality is on the march, and it isn’t just Chicago. If you did this on the scale of the entire state, you’d notice similar patterns. The suburbs would start greener in 1970 and become more gray while many downstate cities would go from gray to orange. And the green on the north side of Chicago extends all the way to the Wisconsin border.

    But yeah, it’s a cool map.

  6. - RonOglesby - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 1:08 pm:

    It also does not show the growth of the suburbs, overall growth of population in the area and how the gray really moves out away from the city.

    Thus some of the city’s problem shrinking tax base/ tax payers.

  7. - cod - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 1:11 pm:

    The map would be much more useful if it was actually covered the entire chicago metro area. You cant get a accurate picture without including the suburbs.

  8. - Steve - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 1:13 pm:

    Some places don’t want middle class jobs and middle class housing. No one would confuse Chicago with Houston would they??? Those land use restrictions , zoning, and union costs are a lot for the middle class to pay. We are Chicago: we have high property taxes, we have high retail sales taxes. Yeah!

  9. - Wensicia - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 1:14 pm:

    ==And the green on the north side of Chicago extends all the way to the Wisconsin border.==

    No, it doesn’t. Some of the poorest communities in the state start less than 5 miles from northern Lake Forest and extend North/Northwest to the Wisconsin state border. Former middle class communities like Waukegan and Zion are now mostly high poverty.

  10. - Angry Republican - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 1:27 pm:

    Daniel also has an excellent map showing homicides in Chicago by police district. It will be no surprise the highest number of homicides occur in the poorest neighborhoods.

  11. - 47th Ward - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 1:34 pm:

    Try not to be so literal Wensicia.

  12. - Secret Square - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 1:41 pm:

    Check out also this series of articles from Straight Dope Chicago, titled “Where Everybody Went”:

  13. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 1:43 pm:

    A separate study of Census data released last month by the Brookings shows Chicago ranks somewhere around 4th or 5th worst in the nation for income inequality.

    Meanwhile, incumbents from the governor on down are running for reelection while highlighting themes of income inequality, the shrinking middle class and a lack of opportunities for upward mobility.

    The tragic irony of this situation appears lost on many of them.

  14. - Almost the Weekend - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 1:48 pm:

    Globalization in America. Middle Class lost, the 1% won.

  15. - 39th Ward - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 1:54 pm:

    What about the increasing percentages of retired people in certain areas? Those folks would tend to drive down the average household incomes, but might still be solidly middle class.

  16. - Six Degrees of Separation - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 2:26 pm:

    With all that concentration of wealth, and middle class shrinkage, I see bigger homes and smaller family sizes trending, the opposite of what is planned for Chicago over the next 25 years. Gentrification. If there is going to be densification, it might be more likely in the lower middle class near suburbs more so than in the city itself.

  17. - Anonymous - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 2:39 pm:

    This is why Bruce Rainer will lose.

  18. - Rod - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 3:41 pm:

    We bought our home on the border of Uptown and Andersonville in 1981. (near Foster and Clark streets) The wealth increase just on my own block is simply mind boggling. So when we bought our single family home for $72,000 it was the most expensive ever sold on the block, it is now worth with good luck $800,000. We now have a single family home on this block being offered at $1.4 million.

    There are no lower income families renting or owning on the block I live on anymore. The only minority families left are a total of four Vietnamese and Hispanic families that haven’t sold out to developers. When we moved on this block white families composed about 45% of the population, today it is about 80% white.

    So in short the article presents a very accurate picture of what has happened in Chicago. In terms of property wealth my family was a big winner.

  19. - Carl Nyberg - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 4:05 pm:

    Is it Chicago’s shrinking middle-class? Or America’s shrinking middle-class?

    This is exactly what NAFTA was supposed to produce. The rich would get richer. The people who punch a time clock would get less.

    Perot said this was a bad thing. The GOP said it was a good thing. And Clinton said government would mitigate the problem for people on the low end.

    Perot might have been crazy, but just b/c a guy is crazy doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

  20. - 47th Ward - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 4:37 pm:

    ===This is exactly what NAFTA was supposed to produce. The rich would get richer. The people who punch a time clock would get less.===

    Not for nothing Carl, but free trade deals like NAFTA lifted about 2 billion people out of poverty across the globe over the last two decades. Did the rich get richer? Maybe, but everyone with a mutual fund did pretty well since 1994 too.

  21. - Emily Booth - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 4:51 pm:

    The Chicago I grew up in and the Chicago I’m growing old in. It’s very sad.

  22. - Wensicia - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 5:20 pm:


    Am I wrong in pointing out how changes to the middle class have affected northern Lake County? The wealthier communities have remained unchanged, except for their expansion into Chicago.

  23. - 47th Ward - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 5:38 pm:

    Wensicia, i didn’t say you were wrong. I said your interpretation of my comment was too literal. I didn’t say there wasn’t poverty in the northern suburbs. But compared to the south suburbs, a statewide map of census tracts would show a lot more green to the north of Chicago than to the south.

    Lighten up dude.

  24. - DuPage Dave - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 5:38 pm:


    Please supply the research background to support the statement that NAFTA has lifted 2 billion people out of poverty. That’s a much more positive assessment than I’ve seen anywhere else.

  25. - 47th Ward - Friday, Apr 4, 14 @ 6:10 pm:

    DD, I overstated it by a billion. Still, lifting a billion people out of poverty is an amazing accomplishment. Unless you used to make shoes in the US.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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