New Analysis Confirms Chicago Area Job Growth Bypasses African-American Communities

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A new analysis by the Chicago Reporter, an on-line magazine that monitors Illinois policy issues, highlights the mismatch between the places in the Chicago region where rapid job growth has been concentrated and the places where the region’s African-American community–with an unemployment rate five times that of whites–lives.  

 

The Reporter’s review of employment and population data from 1990 through 2006 shows that in the 41 municipalities where blacks made up less than 1% of the population, the number of jobs grew nearly 60,000. In contrast, the 14 municipalities with large African-American populations (30% or more) lost 45,000 jobs in the same period.

 

The Reporter’s findings complement findings of Good Jobs First’s 2007 Gold Collar report, which mapped state subsidy spending between 1990 and 2004.  The report described how these subsidies overwhelmingly supported business location and expansion in Chicago’s already affluent, mainly white and job-rich suburban counties and communities.

 

These were also areas that had little affordable housing and few public transit options for job seekers from Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs with high unemployment. As the Reporter article notes, African-American job-seekers from Chicago’s South Side seeking work in fast growing McHenry County must choose between moving to costly, segregated neighborhoods or making long commutes by car. 

 

Mapping the geographical distribution of other economic development, education, and infrastructure spending remains essential to promote more regional equity.  But more aggressive use of existing policy tools, like the 2006 Illinois Business Location Efficient Incentives law, is also crucial. The law provides a modestly increased corporate tax credit for companies locating or expanding in areas with available affordable housing and/or transit access, and should be promoted vigorously to redirect more job growth back to older and needier urban areas.  

 

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