The State of Black Chicago

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By Erick Johnson

In the Riverdale neighborhood on the Far South Side, nearly all of the households last year earned less than a full time fast food worker in Chicago. In 27 predominately Black neighborhoods last year, nearly all Black homeowners seeking to refinance their mortgages were rejected and over 1500 homes were lost to foreclosure. And while Blacks struggle to find jobs, whites are making six figure salaries as the economic gap between Chicago’s racial groups continues to widen.

Those are the details in a fresh, extensive report released by the Chicago Urban League on Tuesday, June 11 at its Summit Luncheon at the Mid-America Club inside the AON building.

Titled Getting to Equal: The State of Black Chicago, the report shows lingering economic disparities between Blacks, whites and Latinos in median income, housing, employment, educational achievement and socioeconomic achievement.

“We cannot have an honest conversation about the state of Black Chicago without considering the lasting effects of segregation, combined with underinvestment in Black communities,” said Barbara A. Lumpkin, Interim President and CEO of the Chicago Urban League.

“In much the same way that we talk about food deserts or pharmacy deserts, many predominantly Black communities in our city are literal opportunity deserts. With today’s rapid pace of technological advancements, STEM fields are driving growth for the future.”

The Chicago Urban League’s 2019 findings are based on research conducted according to race on Chicago’s 27 predominately Black neighborhoods. The report includes information pulled by various Chicago governmental departments and non-profit organizations.

The organization released a similar study in 2016 that showed scarce rental housing and plunging property values imperiled working class Blacks, and Black homeowners who were still recovering from the devastating Great Recession triggered by the housing crisis in 2008.

The latest report comes as thousands of Blacks are leaving Chicago, sending the city’s 2.7 million U.S. Census population into a downward spiral. Once a city with over 1 million Blacks, there are now 878,304 Blacks in Chicago, making them the second largest minority group behind Latinos, which now make up 33 percent of the city’s population.

EDUCATION


According the report, Blacks in Chicago Public Schools have made some gains in education, but still lag in graduation rates behind Latinos and whites. The lowest are Black males, whose graduation rate went from 43.2 percent in 2011 to 64.7 percent in 2018.  White females and white males had the highest graduation rates in CPS at 90.2% and 82.1 percent, respectively.

The report also showed that 36.0 percent of Black high school males and 52.3 percent of Black females had the highest dropout rates in CPS. They also had the highest suspension rates and lowest SAT scores, which most colleges and universities use in accepting applicants.

More Black CPS students are earning Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exam credits according to the report. Black males improved from 20.2 in 2014 to 26.1 credits in 2018. Black females improved from 20.7 to 37.2 credits in 2018. Still, Blacks lag far behind other racial groups, especially white females, who earned 73.2 AP and IB credits in 2018, up from 56.5 in 2014, the highest achievement among ethnic groups.

The report additionally stated all Blacks had a small increase in the number of bachelors and advanced degrees, but still lagged far behind their white counterparts.

The report noted also that the number of Blacks obtaining degrees in science, engineering or related fields slightly increased from 37 percent in 2010 to 37.5 percent in 2017. Still, the number of Blacks with these degrees is lower than that of Latinos (40 percent) and whites (39.3 percent).

EMPLOYMENT

While unemployment dropped and job opportunities have increased, Blacks continue to post double-digit unemployment rates according to the report, which says Black workers have unemployment rates four times as high as whites and twice as high as Latinos. In 2010, 25 percent of Blacks in Chicago remained out of work. In 2017, that number dipped to 20.2 percent. But the report says “residents in Englewood and West Englewood have unemployment rates of 35.3 and 33.6, respectively.”

Blacks are also last in annual income, the report shows. On average, the median income for Black households in Chicago is $31,056; for Latinos it is $45,555 and for whites, $79,425.

Among the 27 predominately Black neighborhoods Calumet Heights had the highest median income, with households earning $48,161 in 2018.

Of the 27 predominately Black neighborhoods surveyed, the Riverdale community on the Far South Side had the lowest annual median income, with households earning just $14,287 a year, according to the report. A full-time fast-food worker in Chicago makes $24,490 annually under the city’s current $12 minimum wage ordinance.

Sixteen percent of Blacks in Chicago lived below the federal poverty level, compared to 7.5 percent for Latinos and 5.2 percent for whites, the report explains.

According to the report, four out of 10 Black households in the 27 predominately Black neighborhoods have incomes below $25,000, but four out of 10 white households have incomes of $100,000 and above. When it comes to six figure-incomes, Latinos also lead Blacks, according to the report. Over 13 percent of white households earn $200,000 or more while just 1.6 percent of Black households earn similar incomes.

The report discloses that the average Black male worker in Chicago earned $41,175 compared to $73,162 for his white counterpart. The report also revealed a Black female worker earned $37,913 compared to $60,241 for her white counterpart.

According to the report, only 15 percent of Blacks in Chicago work in management, business and finance compared to 60.4 percent of whites. Approximately 11 percent of Blacks are employed in computer, engineering and science fields compared to nearly 60 percent of whites.

The report, citing statistics from the Annual Survey of American Entrepreneurs, says Black companies in Chicago in 2016 were far behind in businesses owned by Latinos and whites that year. Some 4,421 Black-owned companies in Chicago had 35,988 employees in 2016 and generated between $1 and $5 billion in revenues.

In contrast, there were 14,696 Latino businesses that had 85,905 employees and generated $5 billion or more revenues that year. But white-owned firms had 2.2 million employees and generated $5 billion or more.

HOUSING

In 2008, there were 4,532 foreclosures in Chicago’s 27 Black neighborhoods. Many Black homeowners became victims of predatory lending with sub-prime mortgages that eventually triggered the Great Recession that lasted for four years. Austin on the West Side had the highest foreclosures with 523.

Ten years later, the total number of foreclosures has decreased to 1,673, but Black neighborhoods took a chunk of the 2,882 foreclosures in Chicago in 2018.

And Austin still has the highest number of foreclosures, with 171 homes being repossessed by banks. Auburn Gresham (165), Roseland (156), Washington Heights (127), West Englewood (122) and West Pullman (112) all had foreclosures in the triple digits. Fuller Park and Riverdale were tied for the lowest with just four.

According to the report, in 2017, there were over 105,000 applications for mortgage loans in Chicago. The rejection rate was higher than one in four for some 8,176 Black mortgage applicants. For 4,157 Blacks seeking to refinance their mortgages that year, 91 percent or 3,805 were denied, states the report.

Black renters in Chicago are also struggling to live. Black residents in the city are more likely to rent than own a home the report asserts. Most are paying more than 35 percent of their income for monthly rent, which ranges from $700 to $1,000 a month for a one-bedroom on the South and West Sides, according to the report.

Of the 27 Black neighborhoods, 56 percent of residents in Englewood are spending more than 35 percent of their paycheck on their monthly rent. West Garfield Park (55.2 percent), North Lawndale (53.3 percent), South Shore (52.6 percent) East Garfield Park (51.7 percent) and Burnside (50.2) are the most rent-burdened Black neighborhoods.

SECOND HARDEST FOR CENSUS COUNT

Historically, Blacks have been the most undercounted racial group in the U.S. because of poverty and other factors.

There are over 1.9 million Blacks in Illinois. Forty percent of them or nearly 820,000 lived in Hard to Count Tracts. Illinois ranks sixth among states for Blacks living in Hard to Count Tracts. Among Chicago’s 878,304 Black population, nearly 67 percent of them or 585,458 live in Hard to Count Tracts.

Census data is important because the federal government allocates funding, resources and political seats in Congress based on the population of a state, city or congressional district.

POLICING AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The report, citing statistics from the ACLU, said over one third of Chicago residents were stopped for weapons in 2016. Seventy-three percent were Black and only two percent were found in possession of a weapon.

Among Cook County’s 7,927 jail inmates, 73 percent are Black, 17 percent are Latino and close to 10 percent are white.

And of the 27 predominately Black neighborhoods, only one (Kenwood), had a life expectancy that reflects the city’s overall 77 years.

Included in the report is the result of a survey where residents were asked about their “feelings of neighborhood safety.” Residents in Calumet Heights felt the safest with a nearly 93 percent score. Douglas, Pullman and the Riverdale neighborhood were tied for second with scores near 90 percent. The neighborhood where residents felt the least safe was Washington Park, which had a score of 43 percent.

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