Segregation of Opportunities: The Structure of Advantage and Disadvantage in the Chicago Region


The Segregation of Opportunities finds that despite improvements in minorities' access to housing in area communities and reduced housing discrimination, stark racial and economic disparities persist in the distribution of access to opportunities across the Chicago region. The study measures a variety of opportunity factors at the community level, including strength of the local tax base, quality of schools, access to jobs and transportation, and other quality of life issues as compared to region-wide averages and the extent to which opportunities are accessible to people from various socioeconomic groups, specifically race and income.

Communities are ranked in five categories from "lowest opportunity" to "highest opportunity,"based on an averaging of opportunity scores, and these findings are then correlated with the region's distribution of population by race and the location of affordable housing.

Among principal findings in the study are:

  • Households with limited incomes have very few housing options in parts of the region with the greatest opportunities. 87% of the housing affordable to households earning $25,525/year are in low opportunity communities. Less than 2% of the housing in high opportunity areas are affordable to households with limited incomes;
  • Black and Hispanic households are located almost entirely in low opportunity areas (94% of Black residents and 83% of Hispanic residents reside in communities in the low or lowest opportunity groups. Just 3% of households in high opportunity communities are Black;
  • The "highest opportunity" communities had 34 times as many jobs created within a 10 mile radius between 1995 and 2000 as the "lowest opportunity" communities, making jobs harder to access for racial minorities;
  • The "lowest opportunity" communities have a tax capacity of $871/household as compared to $2,813 for the "highest opportunity" communities;
  • Comparisons on a variety of quality of life issues, ranging from crime to asthma, the amount of recreational space, and civic participation, find similar disparities. For example, the housing appreciation rate - as a measure of wealth - in the "lowest opportunity" areas was 37% from 1990 to 2000 as compared to 81% in the "highest opportunity" areas.

The report offers a number of prescriptions to the conditions identified in the report, including reforms at the state, regional, and local levels. For more information on how you can get involved in efforts to reverse the segregation of opportunities in the Chicago region, contact the Leadership Council today.

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