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Report: Investment In Education Can Help Close Chicago’s Racial Gaps

The statistics aren’t surprising — black Chicago residents experience a number of racial disparities in income, employment and education. But a new report from the Chicago Urban League presents a host of policy recommendations to reverse the lasting effects of structural racism aimed at black communities for decades.

The 2019 “State of Black Chicago” report says long-term policy changes are needed, not just direct services to help people facing barriers. The report states that there’s a need for “broader social changes brought about by policy and advocacy aimed at disrupting structural racism, mass incarceration and longstanding segregation and disinvestment.”

Interim President and CEO Barbara Lumpkin said many of the outcomes are known.

“You might say pre-existing conditions,” Lumpkin said. “Now we want to make certain that 1. people are aware and 2. They acknowledge there is a continuation of the existence of some of these policies that are stagnating and, in some cases, prohibiting black Chicagoans’ advancement. We want to make sure people are at the table bringing meaningful solutions.”

Lumpkin said she is encouraged by the new Lori Lightfoot mayoral administration to tackle some of these issues.

Here are some recommendations from the Chicago Urban League (CUL) report:


Black students have lower average SAT scores, according to the report. The average score for Black girls is 897, compared to 953 and 1135 for Latino and white girls, respectively. The average score for black boys is even lower at 873. The CUL report notes that just 12.6% of African Americans have undergraduate degrees, compared to more than 37% of white residents.

Equitable distribution of resources in Chicago Public Schools classrooms is needed as well as socioemotional support for students. CUL also says increased financial assistance for college students will help.


Chicago has a thriving and growing ecosystem for entrepreneurs but it doesn’t serve black entrepreneurs well — especially for tech.

“Obstacles that are common to all entrepreneurs — lack of access to capital, space and mentors — are compounded for African Americans. Black entrepreneurs typically cannot turn to family members to help fund their ventures, nor to classmates and friends to source experienced tech talent. There is also a wide gap between ‘I have an idea and actually connecting to the resources needed to make that idea a reality. Despite some efforts at diversity, the city’s biggest and best-known tech accelerators and incubators have relatively few African American members,” the report said.

CUL recommends greater access to mentors and corporate partnerships.


In Chicago, 35% of African Americans own homes compared to 52% of white homeowners, according to the report.

Given that many black homeowners still suffer from the 2008 financial crisis, CUL says legislation is needed to protect low-income borrowers. “We need state and federal lawmakers to enact legislation that makes homeownership more accessible while protecting people from unfair or harmful lending practices,” the report said. More affordable housing across the city is needed, too.

Natalie Moore is a reporter on WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. You can follow her on on Twitter @NatalieYMoore.

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