Chicago is Hemorrhaging Families

flickr / Señor Codo
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Chicago is losing families at an alarming rate, casting doubts on the city’s efforts for economic recovery according to a new report from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). While some of the city’s demographic change reflects nationwide shifts, Chicago’s loss of families (particularly black middle-class families) and its increasingly aging population are at rates higher than similar major metropolitan areas, suggesting a dour economic future for the city.

The CMAP report teases out their fleeing-family insight from census data showing an overall 10 percent loss each for individuals 19 or younger and those aged 35 to 49 between 2005 and 2016. The CMAP assumption, according to the report, is that the loss of these specific groups at nearly identical rates in Chicago reflect a downward family trend in the area. At the same time, the city’s boomer population between those same years increased by 30 percent.

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Some of these shifts can be explained by national demographic trends. Couples are increasingly marrying later in life, which contributes to a decline in birthrates and an overall trend in fewer American families. But the issues is that the trend seems to be more pronounced in Chicago, relative to other major metropolitan regions. Moreover, the trend is accelerated in Cook County, relative to other Chicagoland counties.

While the CMAP report makes no reference to racial of ethnic demographics in its report, Census data notes that 2015 saw a spike in the black exodus, with 3,000 more black residents leaving the city than in 2014, a total of 12,000 individuals. Anecdotally, some Chicago civic leaders in the black community report that those leaving the area are families, many with single parents.

Chicago’s population loss is starkly visualized by the most recent data in the Forbes interactive American Migration map. Results for Cook County show outbound migration outstripping incoming migration. Over a five year period between 2005 and 2010, that migration appears to be largely to counties in Florida and the Southwestern United States.

The CMAP report authors do have an idea why the migration is occurring. “These differences suggest that metropolitan Chicago may be less attractive to families relative to its peers,” they write. “This may be due to overall economic conditions, quality of life, and cost of living, among other issues.”

The losses come in spite of a recent survey by WalletHub that suggests Illinois as a whole is a relatively good place for families. In fact, the state rated fourth in terms of highest median family salary and ranked 19th overall.

But it appears that to be attractive to families, the positive statewide indices of affordability, educational opportunities, and livability will have to be amplified in the Chicago region, or there will continue to be fewer families willing to shop, play, and work in the windy city.

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