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Good News For Some In Chicago’s New Income Numbers

While new Census figures show incomes rising nationally and in Chicago, the city’s black households aren’t sharing in the gains.

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Commuters return to work in downtown Chicago, Monday, May 21 2012, on the final day of the NATO summit. The numbers of passengers taking trains and buses in Chicago appear to be way down Monday, as many commuters seemed to heed advice to stay home while the NATO summit enters its final day. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Commuters return to work in downtown Chicago, Monday, May 21 2012.

Charles Rex Arbogast

Across the country people have been trumpeting the good news from the new national Census numbers. Now that the local numbers are out, it’s clear Chicago also has some news worth celebrating.

In 2015 the median income went up in Chicago, and unemployment went down. The percentage of people in poverty was the lowest it’s been in 7 years in Chicago.

But it’s not all good news. While the median income of white Chicagoans continues to climb, the black median income was more stagnant. That’s created a widening gap between the median incomes of white and black Chicagoans, even as the gap remained steady nationally. Median income for black Chicagoans now equals about 39 cents on the dollar compared to white Chicagoans.

Jack Howard/WBEZ

Dr. Stephanie Bechteler is with Chicago’s Urban League. She believes the trend is related to the disappearance of middle-class families from some large cities like Chicago.

“And with that loss of the middle class you see a bifurcated city with a wider income gap than you’ve seen in previous years,” she said.

Jack Howard/WBEZ

There was also some bad news on the state level. Illinois was one of only eight states that saw an increase in the GINI Index -- a number that measures income distribution and inequality.

“These numbers show that despite a generally positive trend, Illinois and its largest city are leaving low-income families and communities of color behind,” said Sam Tuttle, director of policy and advocacy at the Heartland Alliance. “We need to make a targeted effort to dismantle the policies and practices that perpetuate racial inequity.”

A previous version of this story misspelled Sam Tuttle’s last name.

Shannon Heffernan is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her @shannon_h

Chris Hagan is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow him @chrishagan

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