More immigrants to the area are bypassing the City of Chicago completely and moving directly to the northern suburbs, according to a new study by the Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The report finds that the foreign-born population in 16 north shore communities increased by nearly 20 percent between 2000 and 2008. Meanwhile, the native-born population shrank by roughly 3 percent.
“The suburbs became sort of the Ellis Island, if you will, of the Chicago region,” said Janet Smith of the Voorhees Center, “with a lot more people just moving directly to the suburbs.”
Smith says the foreign-born now account for 27% of the population in the northern suburbs, with Mexicans, Polish, and Indians constituting the largest groups. Smith says immigrants appear to be heading directly for the suburbs because of abundant work opportunities, particularly in construction, and cheap housing. She says it is still not clear how the collapse of the construction industry may have affected that.
The study was done for the Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs.