Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Watch Chicago’s Middle Class Vanish Before Your Very Eyes

Daniel Hertz is back with another one of his great Chicago map posts and piece of data analysis. This time he looks at the decline of Chicago’s middle class in favor of the rich and poor in a post called “Watch Chicago’s Middle Class Vanish Before Your Very Eyes.” I will let you read it on his site but will include the animated graphic. Pay particular attention to the gray, which is middle class neighborhoods.

Topics: Demographic Analysis, Economic Development
Cities: Chicago

42 Responses to “Watch Chicago’s Middle Class Vanish Before Your Very Eyes”

  1. Paul Lambie says:

    It’s so neat to watch that I almost forgot that it was delivering bad news.

  2. urbanleftbehind says:

    It seems as though the peak advance of lower-income residents into formerly middle-class areas was at year 2007. Did the real-estate bust that was just starting that year wipeout some lower-income incursions (foreclosures?)into the Bungalow Belt and City Worker areas by 2012?

  3. Daniel Hertz says:

    Urbanleftbehind, I don’t know. I’m doubtful that we can really make very many conclusions from the 2007-2012 changes, since the recession obviously had a big impact on housing prices, mobility, etc., that may or may not be permanent.

  4. the urban politician says:

    Am I the only one looking at this and seeing good news?

    Yes, the middle class spilled out of the city and moved into the suburbs, but look at how much the core has boomed. The only thing we aren’t seeing is wealth spread south to connect downtown with Hyde Park. That strip of land, called Bronzeville, has been remarkably resistent to gentrification.

  5. Harvey says:

    Watch that patch on the North Side turn from angry red to mostly green, and especially between 2007-2012. That’s Uptown, which I’ve been ranting about on this blog, and it’s not changing so quickly because everybody there keeps winning the lottery. These things have real impacts, people are losing their homes.

    And urban politician, Daley had a billion-dollar plan to “fix” Bronzeville: replace it with an Olympic village. Deja vu all over again…That said, it’s night and day north and south of Pershing.

  6. Jon Seisa says:

    My, mushrooming ultra rich and mushrooming ultra poor. Such a contrasting dichotomy is not a good sign. This is an indicator of a corrupt system.

  7. the urban politician says:

    ^ But clearly you can see that this diagram shows less about the flow of wealth and more about the flow of PEOPLE.

    Middle class people still exist, they just left most of the city. Rich people have always existed, they just decided that Chicago’s core and northside are where they want to be.

    Poor people have always existed, they just got left behind in the west and south sides

  8. John Morris says:

    Have to agree with TUP to some degee. Without including suburbs one can’t get a picture of what is going on.

    But extreme poverty/ problems so over a large area so close to the allegedly thriving core does not look good- worse than many cities with fewer assets.

  9. John Morris says:

    Harvey said

    “And urban politician, Daley had a billion-dollar plan to “fix” Bronzeville: replace it with an Olympic village.”

    This is leads to the trillion $ question. What role have insecure property rights had on Chicago’s South & West Sides?

    We all know, the city over and over again seized property and forcibly removed people in these areas. Do we have an overlay map of the planned Olympic “investments”?

    In NY we had a crude saying, “If he’s scratching it, he’s probably gonna pull it out”. Any investor in that area likely knows some of the history and is aware of some of the plans. If the city didn’t respect property rights once or twice, why would they now?

    I know people who were burned by fixing up buildings near Pittsburgh’s old Mellon Arena when they grabbed more land for a new one. Sadly- you don’t have to be racist to know investing where poor powerless people live is often not a good idea- because these places are vulnerable to government abuse.

  10. wkg in bham says:

    per wiki: chicago population in 1970 3,370,000 +/-
    2010 2,295,000 +/- (I don’t put much stock in census estimates) Indications that small popultation qain since 2010.

    Net change over period (-1,075,000 +/-)

    If net gain of upper income of say 300,000 (?????)
    Then the net change of middle and working class = -1,375,000

    The poor and underclass are rooted in place. This is not a Chicago thing.

    @the urban “Poor people have always existed, they just got left behind in the west and south sides” Yep.

  11. John Morris says:

    I think every city can be divided between places, no politician, highway engineer or crony capitalist would dare mess with and places they can do whatever they want.

    Totally secure property is way more valuable and way more likely to be able support investments and loans.

  12. wkg in bham says:

    @John “But extreme poverty/ problems so over a large area so close to the allegedly thriving core does not look good- worse than many cities with fewer assets.” It’ll be intresting to see what going to happen in NYC w/new mayor deBlasio (or something like that)

  13. the urban politician says:

    wkg your numbers are wrong.

    2010 Chicago population was 2.695 million, not 2.295 million

  14. the urban politician says:

    This map of Chicago will continue to change, and change rapidly. 2007-2012 largely encompassed the recession and the post-recession period.

    A tidal wave of investment is coming into Chicago’s core and near north side, but you are also starting to see things pick up on the southwest sides and gentrification move further inward along the north lakefront, especially as job growth within the city’s core improves.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Two extremely inaccurate statement:

    “Daley had a billion-dollar plan to “fix” Bronzeville: replace it with an Olympic village.”

    The original proposal was to build the village on the truck parking lot south of McCormick Place but this was modified when the (closed) Michael Reese hospital site became available. Highly unlikely that either site would “replace” Bronzewille.

    “This is leads to the trillion $ question. What role have insecure property rights had on Chicago’s South & West Sides?”

    The city doesn’t need to acquire property in much of the south and west sides, it becomes the owner by default when property is abandoned and/or the property taxes are not paid.

  16. John Morris says:

    LOL, that assumes that one trusts the official plans as they were laid out. Wht other plans were in the works? Chicago law is more like Obamacare.

    The city has a history of seizing land especially in this area.

    Here is the city trying to grab land for a hotel.

    “Chicago’s push for a 1,200-room Marriott Marquis convention hotel near the planned DePaul arena moved into court Monday when the city filed an eminent domain lawsuit aimed at acquiring the property next to McCormick Place.”

    This kind of gangsterism has an effect. Small business owners and non deep pocket investors avoid places like this.

  17. John Morris says:

    It also looks like The Michael Reese Hospital site itself was partly built through eminent domain land seizures.

    “Major institutional interests on the South Side, such as the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and Michael Reese Hospital, also faced the daunting prospect of surviving within rapidly deteriorating neighborhoods. Even before World War II, they had recommitted themselves to the area, and, in 1946, they joined other local interests to create the South Side Planning Board (SSPB). Staking out a planning interest of seven square miles from Cermak Road south to 47th Street and from Michigan Avenue west to the Pennsylvania Railroad, their efforts—along with those of their Loop counterparts—enticed the New York Life Insurance Company to finance the Lake Meadows development. Michael Reese Hospital soon followed with its own Prairie Shores complex; IIT expanded its campus from 7 to 110 acres; Mercy Hospital decided to remain and grow in the area; and South Commons was developed as a middle-income housing enclave.

    The University of Chicago took the initiative in the urban renewal of Hyde Park, as it did with the conception and enactment of the Illinois Urban Community Conservation Act of 1953, a law precisely tailored to the institution’s needs. Proceeding in stages throughout the 1950s under earlier redevelopment acts and through the South East Chicago Commission (SECC), the university responded forcefully to a process of racial transition that had been accelerated by clearance projects to its north. The city approved a general renewal plan for Hyde Park–Kenwood in 1958 after the SECC had removed the worst pockets of “blight” and prevented precipitous “white flight.” By 1970, the university and various public agencies had invested some $100 million in the area—an amount augmented by an additional $300 million in private funds.”

  18. Eric says:

    John Morris’ sequential and jejune comments here attempting to derail the discussion under every post about Chicago are wearying. Is there a way to turn them off? It’s a useful reminder of how hard it can be to coherently communicate a Taco Bell order when you’re super drunk, but I don’t need to be reminded this frequently.

  19. John Morris says:

    How is talking about one of the most relevant aspects of Chicago’s history derailing the discussion?

  20. wkg in bham says:

    Oops. How embarrassing
    Here are the right numbers:
    1970 3,366,957
    2010 2,695,598
    change 671,359

    Net 671,359
    new high 300,000
    mid-work out 971,359

    Still would indicate a pretty significant outflow.

  21. Eric says:

    Well, have you ever seen comments where people bring up Ron Paul, Obamacare and the Gold standard under YouTube videos of cats and under Pittsburgh Post Gazette stories about weekend getaway spots? It’s not very different from you bringing up Obamacare for no reason here or the Fed’s hard money policies under other Chicago demography posts. Knock it off, please. It’s transparent. And your online persona is an anachronism. Work on it.

  22. John Morris says:

    The subject I brought up is eminent domain abuse & urban renewal. You might not like my views but they are hardly not relevant to the history of Chicago’s South & West Side.

  23. Eric says:

    John Morris, I suspect that you troll in so many places that you don’t realize when you’re bringing up Obamacare for no reason anymore. And it’s not just this thread, but every Chicago post where you frequently try to insert monetary policy (for some reason?) and anti-Chicago sentiments. It’s fine if you’re bitter about Chicago for whatever reason and hate Obama. We get it. I acknowledge it. Houston or some Ohio suburb or whatever is the best. Just stop it. Stop it right now. I mean it. Quit.

  24. John Morris says:

    I can only guess this cuts too close to home. Off hand, I can’t recall bringing up monetary policy. (Though it affects practically everything related to cities & real estate)

    Care to at least deny that eminent domain abuse is incredibly common in Chicago?

    @Anonymous made a relevant response to my comment about the Olympic Village plans. So far nothing you’ve said has been remotely on topic.

  25. Matt Hall says:

    Watch Chicago gain a much wealthier professional class at the same time.

  26. thejerkstore says:

    Pfft..This is news? Two tiered society has always been the plan.

  27. wkg in bham says:

    @jerk: “Pfft..This is news? Two tiered society has always been the plan” Seems like it. If it could be pulled off a one tier society would be even better.

  28. wkg in bham says:

    To all: “Obamacare”, “Fed Money Policy”???? Did I miss something?

  29. John Morris says:

    Just a few Chicago Eminent domain highlights, tilted towards recent cases/ plans.

    If all of this was old news, it might be right to just put it to rest.

    2014 Chicago seizes land for DePaul Basketball Arena & Hotel

    2014 Illinois approves eminent domain for casino sites

    2013 Chicago official want to seize home in Englewood neighborhood on southwest side for a park

    2002 Chicago seizes Meigs Field (Private Airfield)

    2005 Chicago plans to seize industrial property for Target store & Senior Housing on North Side

    2005 Chicago Plans land seizure for Englewood Development on Southwest Side

    2000-20012 Chicago seizes several Single Room Occupancy Hotels through eminent domain in Lake View area of North Side- evicting residents

    1994 Maxwell Street Market (Chicago’s West Side- seized for The University of Illinois @ Chicago)

    1991 Chicago destroys part of Armour Square neighborhood on The South Side for new White Sox’s Stadium

    1990 United Center (Occupies 45 acres on Near West Side- mostly surface parking)

    1979-2005 Chicago seizes land in Chicago Loop for infamous, money losing “Block 37” project- failed indoor mall.

    Notice the right to grab land for casino sites. How should South & West Side property owners react to an open ended threat like that? Clearly the most likely sites will be there. In the 1980’s all kinds of new stadium plans were floating around.

  30. wkg in bham says:

    @eric: Yep. John can be a little annoying somethime when he gets a bug up his ass. Just chill. That’s why there’s a scroll bar. I’ve haven’t found him totally off topic – at worst tangental.

    I like John. We’ve had some interesting little chats about stuff. Usually after the thread has basically died.

  31. Pete says:

    John – how does TIF money play into this?

    It seems on one hand that pulling tax money for development clearly hurts local areas vis-a-vis parks and school maintenance, etc. This contributes to ‘blight’ which makes them prime candidates for the chopping block.

    TIF money then shows up like a white knight ready to save the say and ‘revitalize’ an area with retail-residential-etc.

  32. Here’s what I would say. There are a number of regular commenters with strong general views about things they see impacting lots of areas (e.g., eminent domain). I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sharing this. I myself believe eminent domain abuse is alive and well.

    What I would say is that after a brief time these comment threads have turned into recycling the same basic statements many times over because people with firm views won’t change their mind and keep responding with similar arguments. I’m probably guilty of this myself.

    What I would say is that people should feel free to say what they think, but limit the number of times they post about it because no one is changing anyone’s mind and if three or four people post a lot of variations on the same theme, no one else will contribute to the discussion.

  33. John Morris says:


    I just don’t know enough about TIF’s to judge the effect. TIF districts & eminent domain often go hand in hand.

    One thing I see with Chicago is a pattern that discourages gradual development- later justifying the need for massive projects.

    For example, the city mandates industrial zoning in large areas, but there seem to lots of exceptions for large developers allowing them to build retail & residential.

    This is The Atlantic Yards pattern. Ban & impede gradual development for years- then act shocked and say the undeveloped property needs emergency surgery only a huge connected developer can do.

  34. the urban politician says:

    John Morris you are spot on.

    I have long been opposed to Chicago’s planned development process for large tracts of land.

    Why not parcel large pieces of land into smaller lots with preexisting zoning, and then sell them off to individual developers?

    I know why. Because then your friends don’t get sweet deals..

  35. John Morris says:

    NYC has a lot of the same stuff. In this case Chicago also seems to be flexible with zoning- for the right group/person. It just stinks of corruption.

  36. John Morris says:


    Top Rahm Emanuel campaign donor stands to benefit from new hotel project built on seized land with 55 million in taxpayer dollars.

  37. Eric says:

    Really, John Morris? I know almost nothing about this project or Citadel investments or Mariott. But I’m guessing Mariott’s market cap is between $15- and $25B dollars. You can look it up. Do you think the construction of *one hotel* is going to change the trajectory of that stock? By my best estimate, the only people who would read that article and not figure that out are spitting tobacco juice into a Solo cup with the napkin in the bottom.

    [googles Citadel investments and hotels]

    Oh, and it looks like they were buying a crapload of Hyatt at the same time. This article is vacuous by the most charitable description. And it’s pretty much indicative of what your posts contribute to the discussion.

  38. Tone says:

    Eric, is of course correct. In addition, a public entity will own the hotel, Marriott will manage it. Hardly anything that will move the stock price.

  39. John Morris says:

    Mea Culpa, I guess.

    Seems this kind of theft is so common it in and out of Chicago it doesn’t bother anyone. Marriott probably has 10 deals like this in the works. If they don’t do them the next crook will.

    Is this the kind of “blighted” property TIF was allegedly geared to help?

  40. Nathanael says:

    Reaganomics. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. The middle class gets squeezed, a small percent goes up, the rest goes down.

    This has been going on since the 1980s. Nationwide.

    Left-wingers have been WARNING about this since the 1980s, as well.

    Despite this, people have still voted for Reagan polices: tax cuts for the rich and fee increases for the poor. Repeatedly. What do you do when people vote to destroy the middle class? I’ve been wondering that for decades.

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