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Racial Inequality, Not Violence, Is Forcing Black Chicagoans Out Of The City, According To New Report

Government policies, like closing schools and creating health care deserts, are leading Black people to leave Chicago, according to a newly released report.

Black families are leaving Chicago at a dramatic rate not just because of violence, as some have suggested, but because of racial inequality.
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DOWNTOWN — Inequality for Black Chicagoans is increasing — which is playing a major role in why they’re leaving the city, according to a newly released report.

In all, Chicago’s Black population has dramatically fallen by 350,000 people since its peak in 1980, when there were almost 1.2 million Black people living in the city, according to the UIC report released Thursday. And while many people think the “exodus” is due to violence in the neighborhoods, the report says a mix of other factors play a much more significant role in leading Black people to leave.

“This popular narrative overlooks the effects of government policies that are displacing Black Chicagoans and how these dynamics are different from neighborhood to neighborhood,” said Amanda Lewis, director of the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy and a UIC professor.

One of the leading factors in Black people leaving Chicago: growing inequality, according to the report.

Over the last 100 years, Chicago saw Black people moving in when things that show racial inequality — like gaps in wage and unemployment levels — were lower than in other cities, according to the report. But since the ’90s, inequality in Chicago has grown, and people of color are leaving as a result.

The loss of public housing, mass closures of Chicago Public Schools, health care and food deserts, over-policing, high unemployment and the lasting effects of the housing crisis are all playing a role in the population loss.

And segregation between Black and white people “remains extremely high,” according to the report. Neighborhoods that have seen rises in white populations have seen decreases in Black residents; similarly, neighborhoods where the Black population are growing have seen their white populations shrink.

Most Black people leaving Cook County are still living in nearby areas, not traveling to the South, as some have suggested.

But Black people who are moving out of the county are moving to places with high unemployment, lower earnings and lower educational attainment compared to white people moving out, according to the report.

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