Parts of Chicago witnessing the fastest growth in median household income are also areas where the white population grew and Latino population shrank in the last 10 years, according to a WBEZ analysis of new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday.
WBEZ analyzed the census bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) data covering two five-year periods — 2011 to 2015 and 2016 to 2020 — for all Chicago ZIP codes with at least 10,000 residents. The five ZIP codes where the median household income increased by 30% or more were 60608, 60642, 60618, 60647 and 60616. They include neighborhoods such as Pilsen, Logan Square, the Lower West Side, Noble Square, Irving Park and the Near South Side. All five ZIP codes gained white residents while losing Latino population between the two five-year periods.
The 60608 ZIP code, the area that includes Pilsen and parts of Bridgeport and McKinley Park, saw the largest increase in median household income, more than 43%. The median household income there increased from $39,976 to $57,183 (adjusted for inflation) in a decade’s span. That ZIP code also saw its Latino population decrease by 17% and its white population increase by 28%.
John Betancur, a professor of urban planning and policy at the University of Illinois Chicago, said the new data continues to demonstrate the trend of white residents, many from the suburbs or just graduating college, moving to neighborhoods near downtown and displacing longtime renters or homeowners in those areas.
“It’s just a continuation of gentrification along the same lines as it was before, since 1990, but that is accelerating now,” Betancur said. “The people that live in those central neighborhoods [near downtown] are being displaced either because they cannot afford increases in rent, or because they are homeowners and they cannot afford the increases in property taxes.”
In the 60647 ZIP code, comprising most of the Logan Square neighborhood, the Latino population dropped by nearly 24%, while the white population increased by 19%. The median household income jumped by nearly 33%, going from $62,098 to $82,433 within a decade.
The 60618 ZIP code — an area along I-90 that includes parts of Irving Park and Avondale — lost about 15% of its Latino residents. While the increase of white residents was around 4%, the median household income there increased by almost 35%, from $63,470 to $85,443.
Betancur said that area is “traditionally white — it didn’t empty out with white flight.” He said many of the Puerto Ricans who had moved into the area after being displaced from West Town decades before were now moving to the suburbs. The area, Betancur said, also has more single-family homes and fewer rental units, and Latino residents who were homeowners are being replaced by higher-income residents.
The 60642 and 60616 ZIP codes, the two other areas that saw income increases greater than 30%, comprise neighborhoods near downtown that continue to attract higher-income residents seeking to live in a central location.
Betancur said the seeds of this trend were planted more than a decade ago during and after the Great Recession.
“During the recession, a lot of people lost their houses. There were a lot of bankruptcies … a lot of short sales, particularly [among] the most vulnerable people,” Betancur explained. “Speculators acquired many of those properties, and as soon as the [recession] was over, and the market started to recover, they started selling them at higher prices. Gentrifiers were able to pay more.”
Betancur said Latino residents who once lived in these areas are now moving to near and far suburbs like Berwyn, Cicero, Aurora, Naperville and Waukegan. He said they seek manufacturing jobs that are no longer available in the city. He also said renting houses in the suburbs is cheaper than doing so in the city.
The ACS data, which includes figures for 2020, does not capture the impact of the past two years of the pandemic.
Alex Gallegos, a spokesman for The Resurrection Project, a Pilsen-based advocacy group, said he expects the trend of Latino residents being displaced by higher-income white residents to continue in the shadow of the pandemic.
“When the pandemic hit Chicago, our people couldn’t stay at home,” he said. “They were out there in the factories, they were in stockyards, they were in the construction, and we got hit early on.”
Others lost jobs and got sick, Gallegos said, and many of these longtime residents are behind on rent.
He said many Pilsen residents have been in the neighborhood for two to three generations. “The older generation, the seniors, they know where their church is. They know where they get their food. They know their neighbors,” he said. “They don’t want to leave. They want to stay here because it’s known, because it’s a big cultural element to Chicago and it brings them back to their roots, where they came from.”
But with rising rents and property taxes, Gallegos said, “Folks are saying, ‘We don’t want to move, but we have to move because we can’t … afford to pay $2,000 in rent anymore, property tax is going up $1,000 every year.’ ”
As for the influx of higher-income, white residents, he added, “We welcome new people to our community; we welcome people who really want to preserve our community. But at the same time, we need choices for the folks who want to stay in our community.”
Esther Yoon-Ji Kang is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her on Twitter @estheryjkang.
Senior Editor Alden Loury contributed to this story.