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•08/15/2011 • 1 Comment

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Root Cause of Economic Segregation in Chicago

•08/14/2011 • Leave a Comment

The Root Cause of Economic Segregation in Chicago

Introduction

Economic segregation has been a bedrock principle of this nation since its inception. When the so called founding fathers produced the constitution, it was only for white land owning males. The constitution set in motion a future of racial and economic (dual) segregation that has left this country crippled to this day. By the time of the Civil Rights Act and other concessions the government gave to appease Blacks, dual segregation had become so embedded in this nation’s society that it became an institution within the larger institution of society. There have been attempts to level the field of economics, but those attempts can only make it so far without enforcement, and enforcement is easier said than done. The issue of dual segregation is a national one, but the focus of this essay is Chicago. Chicago has positioned itself as a world class city within a nation that is world class in many other areas. But this city was crippled early on by intentionally segregating its population; leaving Blacks and other minorities to fend for themselves. In the book Place Matters: MetroPolitics for the Twenty-first Century DMS argues that although racial segregation played a role in economic segregation, it is not the prime reason for it[1]. But as you will see, racial segregation has led Chicago down a path that has left the city with numerous problems that only national policy can address. The policies put in place by Mayor Richard M. Daley not only have taken the city backwards, but has made it all but impossible to move the disenfranchised into a position of economic stability. Chicago’s insistence on racially segregating its citizens has left many if not the majority of those citizens economically segregated, thus leaving them unable to achieve that upward mobility so many of us work so hard to achieve.

 

Today

            Chicago is a city well known to this generation because of the 18th amendment (prohibition) and the gang warfare that followed, but Chicago is much more than that. Strategically situated on Lake Michigan and the hub of the Midwest, Chicago is ideal for manufacturing and shipping throughout the nation. Chicago is much more than that; it is history in the making, and with the election of President Barack Obama no one should be surprised at what comes next from the city. Large in size and complex in politics Chicago, stands alone because it is the only major city in the region with a population of more than 2 million, if the entire Chicago-land area is included that number jumps to over 8 million. Chicago also stands alone when it comes to politics and demographics, but the city is not alone when it comes to urban sprawl and economic segregation. Chicago’s economic segregation is tied almost exclusively to its racial segregation.

In 2000, Chicago had a population of 2,896,016. Blacks and Hispanics made up 1,807,383 people and of that number all were located within the inner ring of the city. The 907,166 people considered “white” extended from the inner city to the outer ring of the city. [2] Of these populations each one lives in a segregated part of the city, but this comes as no surprise being that Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in the nation.[3] The politics of Chicago most likely dictates the demographics of the city. In fact, Chicago, since 1931 has been run by Democrats.[4]  this is reflected in the population since blacks and Hispanics primarily vote democratic. From 1990-2000 the population grew by 4%, but the city lost 14.1% of its white population due to urban sprawl. At the same time Chicago’s black population decreased by 1.9%, but the city’s population of Hispanics grew by 38.1%- this trend followed the economic growth of that time. If this is so, there is more than economic segregation at play here. The fact that during this time household income rose, and poverty declined.[5] Something more than economics had to be working against other ethnic groups within the city. It is no secret that drugs and crime run rampant in the city, so why is it that black and Hispanics continued to live in the city? Could it be that while the country was prospering according to the numbers, that a huge portion of the population somehow went uncounted or, were these groups somehow encouraged to remain in the city? The answer to these questions can be answered by what are called push-pull factors. Prior to the 1960s people of color were excluded from some neighborhoods, so instead of migrating to the suburbs with other middle and upper class people, people of color were forced (pushed) into certain neighborhoods while middle and upper class whites were being pulled towards the suburbs.

The fact that Chicago is so segregated could have possibly helped the poorer people within the city weather this recession the nation is facing now, because most of these people rely on public transportation, and are renters. This means they could not default on auto or home loans, but upward mobility has become more difficult for these groups if only because education suffered. According to the Chicago Tribune “Chicago, the third largest school system, had a 52.2 percent graduation rate. That corresponded with a study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago, which reported this year that 54 percent of Chicago public school freshmen receive a diploma.”[6]  This was written when the economic situation in the country was decent; and education tends to suffer first when the economy turns bad. There is no doubt that Chicago’s economic segregation is directly influenced by its racial segregation, and unless the economic gap becomes somewhat bridged than the racial and economic gap will continue to grow.

Troubled Past

 Chicago is certainly an economic and racially divided city. The city is not divided because the citizens want to be, but because segregation in the city and its outer suburbs is institutional. Since the early twentieth century no matter what political party was in control, the government has systematically segregated its population. In the book MAKING the second ghetto, Arnold Hirsch says “City officials were able to quarantine black neighborhoods; police were much less able to control actions within them.”[7] The blacks in these neighborhoods were left to fend for themselves with few economic opportunities. This is how economic segregation begins; the government could have curbed this problem then, by not addressing the problem from the beginning Chicago went down a path that is almost impossible to correct. In the book American Apartheid, the authors Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton would agree that economic segregation is directly tied to racial segregation.

Being that Chicago is a Northern city, racial segregation does not resonate with some, but racial segregation has been the norm in Chicago for quite some time. “By 1900 the black population (in Chicago) suffered an extraordinary degree of segregation and their residential confinement was nearly complete”[8]. Had the city taken steps then to curb these types of practices, Chicago could have averted this dual segregation. It must be said that Chicago is not alone in the choices it made during this time, but the choices Chicago made would continue to haunt the city to this day. During the depression era years, Blacks in huge numbers switched from supporting the Republican party to supporting the Democratic party; although this switch changed the political landscape it did not dramatically change the reality of life in Chicago. “The most distinguishing feature of post World War II ghetto expansion is that it was carried out with government sanction and support”[9]. The expansion of the “black “ghetto almost certainly led to housing segregation. Owning homes is a part of wealth-If the government is sanctioning ghettos for a certain segment of the population, that population will not be included when wealth grows thus leaving that segment not only racially but economically segregated.

It could be said that housing, the banking system, and employment are regulated by the free market, but DMS would disagree. DMS would say “There is no such thing as a free market”.[10] That being said each one of these institutions systematically kept the blacks in Chicago dually segregated from the rest of the population. The issue with economic segregation is that it does not stop at the color line; economic segregation touches all ethnic groups, but none of these groups have suffered dual segregation to the extent as the black community.

If the economic progress of the 1950s and 1960s had been sustained into the 1970s, segregation levels might have fallen more significantly. William Clark estimates that 30%-70% of racial segregation is attributable to economic factors, which, together with urban structure and neighborhood preferences, “bear much of the explanatory weight for present residential patterns[11].

It must be said that although wages were up and black ownership had risen, it had not risen to the proportion of the population.

Chicago’s insistence on racial segregation in the early twentieth century has led the city down a path of economic segregation. The insistence of the city to keep blacks and other ethnic minorities enclosed within their own communities has led to “de facto” segregation. Inequality in schools, housing, lending, and employment, so even with equal access to these institutions, economics tend to lead to unequal treatment precisely because dual segregation has become an American institution.

Back to the Future

            After 1931, politics in Chicago followed the trend of a machine, and why should it not? Everyone seemed happy with the arrangements. The first Mayor Daley kept his grip on the city for twenty one years with what at times took on the persona of a dictatorship.

“Mayor Richard J. Daley (1955-1976) ran a tight “machine” that controlled neighborhoods through political patronage and an ethnically and racially queued hierarchy. He went as so far as using a special police force (the “red squad”) to crush community-based insurgent demands”.[12]

This would make most disenfranchised residents switch political parties, but where would they go? Most of these people had just recently switched to the Democratic Party, so they knew what the alternative was all about. After Daley’s death the political landscape changed very little because the two mayors that followed were part of the same machine; Michael Bilandic (1977-79) followed by Jane Byrne (1979-83). Following these administrations, Chicago was ripe for change. For years blacks and Hispanic politics were governed by the political structure of city hall, but little did Chicago know its progressive time was in the near future.

When Chicago’s first black Mayor, Harold Washington took the helm the city was as divided as ever. Blacks and Hispanics lived in poor, crime ridden neighborhoods, with very poor schools and minimal opportunities for employment within their areas or upward mobility. Although Washington was a Democrat, his election was by no means handed to him. “In the general election, due to white voter backlash, Washington and the movement forces barley defeated the republican candidate Bernard Epton, who was nearly unanimously supported by the electorate in most majority-white wards-a surprising outcome in a democratic town”[13]. Washington’s agenda was a progressive one; an agenda of inclusion where the previously disenfranchised would finally be included in the city they called home.

Institutions (especially political institutions) are almost impossible to change, so no matter what changes Washington planned they would be met by opposition even from within his own party.

Regrettably, following his Mayoral election, the remnant of the machine organized a majority block of aldermen bent on obstructing any legislation and immobilizing the young regime. The obstructionism led to the council wars. But every time the council bloc stalled his proposals, he brought the case to his constituency[14].

This sounds eerily similar to what President Obama is dealing with on the national level, but that is for a different discussion. Harold Washington’s intention was not to change the political picture of Chicago, but to change the economic segregation the cities minorities had been facing for centuries. Washington knew the institution of Chicago politics could not be impeded from the top down; the structure would have to be rebuilt from its very foundation. “He believed that in partnership with local government, community-based organizations, operating under this kind of framework represents an important resource for the city’s future. This sector could also facilitate participation and facilitate local agendas aimed at resolving neighborhood problems”[15]. From the outside looking in, people might say this was a brilliant idea, but when dealing with Chicago’s politics, being on the outside at a distance just might be safer.

The old saying, “The apple does not fall from the tree” fits to a tee when it comes to Mayor, Richard M. Daley (Daley II). As with national politics, legacy will take a person a long way. The Chicagoans, who felt safe under Daley I, would also feel safe under Daley II. If Richard M. Daley would have continued some of Mayor, Washington’s initiatives Chicago would be a very different city from what we see today.

Daley was not about to embrace the emerging community development and pro-neighborhood framework described above. After the first few years, the new Daley program started taking rapid shape; by 1995, his administration had clearly weakened or reversed some of the critical elements of community development as they started to emerge under the Washington administration[16].

In those few short years, Daley took Chicago from being on a path less traveled to a path frequently driven. But Daley is not doing anything that most metropolitan Mayors are not doing. It is going to be easier to take people from the internal combustion engine then it will be to change the path of economic segregation in Chicago.

To Daley’s credit, he is investing in the central city; even if he is doing it at the expense of the inner city residents. Like any Mayor, he is trapped between the city’s residents and business. “While practicing tokenism through selective appointments of people of color, his administration has essentially ignored the collective interests of low-income communities. Instead, it prioritized downtown development at the expense of neighborhoods”[17]. Essentially this left the disenfranchised in the city economically segregated. Daley also wanted the city’s low-income residents replaced with middle-class residents. In order for the Mayor to achieve this goal he would have to compete with the outer suburbs. Chicago is a beautiful city, but it is plagued with crime, so for Daley II to make this happen he would have to rid the city of undesirables. “Central to this was development of middle-class gentrified neighborhoods, zero-tolerance policing, tourism, school reform, public housing displacement, and an approach to the nature and existence of poverty based on behavioral assumptions of pathology rather than structural inequalities”[18]. Daley seems to not understand that “Place Matters” or that tax monies spent on programs like job training and education could have naturally gentrified these very same communities.

We must understand that the perception of a city directly reflects on the Mayor, so Daley needed to move his agenda forward even at his cost of his residents.

The gentrification agenda includes rezoning, condominium conversion, selective transportation improvements, park redevelopment and code enforcement, establishment of more than 120 tax-increment financing districts, street beautification, wrought-iron fencing and gating of public land to the private sector, fast-track demolition of dilapidated structures, coordination of public services and policing with block clubs of homeowners, and partnerships with financial institutions to facilitate homeownership-all of which provide lucrative construction contracts to firms that support his regime[19].

Mayor, Richard M. Daley’s policy of gentrification will in no doubt continue the trend of economic polarization within the city; because the current residents of those areas will either be pushed or pulled into other economically depressed areas outside the city. Most politicians who would pull something along these lines would have been indicted for ethics violations, but Chicago has a well deserved reputation of less than tasteful politics. It would seem that any solution to Chicago’s problem of economic segregation died with Mayor Washington. Not to say Chicago is doomed, but with Daley II as Mayor any solution will be from a business first stand point.

Conclusion

Chicago’s past of racial segregation has left the city in a position where even national policy would be hard pressed to change the dynamics of the city. “Because openness varies among governments and agencies, new issues are likely to move onto the governmental agenda more easily in decentralized political systems with more points of access”[20]. But this is a double edged sword precisely because openness varies, and race seems not to be a topic open for discussion. Racial segregation, in my opinion remains the central issue that causes economic segregation. DMS says “By reducing place-based inequalities will not make racism go away, but it will undermine one of the pillars of black economic deprivation”[21]. Racial inequality has played a major role, and in my opinion is the prime reason for economic segregation in this nation.

I recently saw on CNN, that blacks with the same level of education, and within the same fields of employment, continue to make less money than whites. This is the sole reason for economic segregation in this country. Because race and economics are institutions, changing either is not a simple policy change, but a major shift in this nation’s psyche. A shift that this country’s voting populous is not fully prepared to embrace.

 

 

 

 

Works cited

www.niu.edu/pubaffairs/RELEASES/2002/​may/poverty-chi.shtml

“Chicago TimeLine” Chicago Public Library, Updated 5/2001.
<http://www.chipublib.org/004chicago/chihist.html> (Feb-March, 2002)

http://encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/989.html – 33k

Source: 2000 Census of Population, Bureau of the Census, U.S. Department of Commerce

ccsr.uchicago.edu/news_citations/070506_​chicagotribune.html

The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago © 2005 Chicago Historical Society.
The Encyclopedia of Chicago © 2004 The Newberry Library. All Rights Reserved. Portions are copyrighted by other institutions and individuals. Additional information on copyright and permissions

Betancur and Gills, 2004.  Community Development in Chicago: From Harold Washington to Richard M. Daley. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 595, Race, Politics, and Community Development in US cities (July, 2004) pp. 92-108.  Accessed 08/04/2010 JSTOR

Burnstein, Paul, 1991. Policy Domains: Organization, Culture, and Policy Outcomes. Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 17 (1991), pp. 327-350. Accessed 08/04/2010 JSTOR

Dreier, Peter, Mollenkope, John, Swanstrom, Todd. Place Matters: Metropolitics for the Twenty-First Century, University Press of Kansas 2004.

Hirsch, Arnold R. Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940-1960, Cambridge University Press 1983.

Higgenbotham, Elizabeth, Anderson, Margaret L.  Race and Ethnicity in society: The Changing Landscape. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning 2006, 2009

Massey, Douglas S., Denton, Nancy A.  American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass, Harvard University Press 1993.

 


[1] Dreier, Peter, Mollenkope, John, Swanstrom, Todd. Place Matters: Metropolitics for the Twenty-First Century, University Press of Kansas 2004.

[2] Source: 2000 Census of Population, Bureau of the Census, U.S. Department of Commerce

[6] ccsr.uchicago.edu/news_citations/070506_chicagotribune.html

[7] Hirsch, Arnold R. Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940-1960, Cambridge University Press 1983 Pg. 2

[8] Hirsch pg. 3

[9] Hirsch pg. 9

[10] Dreier, Peter, Mollenkope, John, Swanstrom, Todd. Place Matters: Metropolitics for the Twenty-First Century, University Press of Kansas 2004.

[11] Massey, Douglas S., Denton, Nancy A.  American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass, Harvard University Press 1993. Pg. 84

[12] Betancur and Gills, 2004.  Community Development in Chicago: From Harold Washington to Richard M. Daley. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 595, Race, Politics, and Community Development in US cities (July, 2004) pp. 92-108.  Accessed 08/04/2010 JSTOR

[13] Betancur and Gills, 2004.  Community Development in Chicago: From Harold Washington to Richard M. Daley. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 595, Race, Politics, and Community Development in US cities (July, 2004) pp. 92-108.  Accessed 08/04/2010 JSTOR

[14] Betancur and Gills, 2004.  Community Development in Chicago: From Harold Washington to Richard M. Daley. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 595, Race, Politics, and Community Development in US cities (July, 2004) pp. 92-108.  Accessed 08/04/2010 JSTOR pg. 94

[15] Betancur and Gills, 2004.  Community Development in Chicago: From Harold Washington to Richard M. Daley. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 595, Race, Politics, and Community Development in US cities (July, 2004) pp. 92-108.  Accessed 08/04/2010 JSTOR pg. 96

[16] Betancur and Gills, 2004.  Community Development in Chicago: From Harold Washington to Richard M. Daley. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 595, Race, Politics, and Community Development in US cities (July, 2004) pp. 92-108.  Accessed 08/04/2010 JSTOR pg. 99

[17] Betancur and Gills, 2004.  Community Development in Chicago: From Harold Washington to Richard M. Daley. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 595, Race, Politics, and Community Development in US cities (July, 2004) pp. 92-108.  Accessed 08/04/2010 JSTOR pg. 99

[18]Betancur and Gills, 2004.  Community Development in Chicago: From Harold Washington to Richard M. Daley. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 595, Race, Politics, and Community Development in US cities (July, 2004) pp. 92-108.  Accessed 08/04/2010 JSTOR pgs. 99-100

[19] Betancur and Gills, 2004.  Community Development in Chicago: From Harold Washington to Richard M. Daley. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 595, Race, Politics, and Community Development in US cities (July, 2004) pp. 92-108.  Accessed 08/04/2010 JSTOR pg. 100

[20] Burnstein, Paul, 1991. Policy Domains: Organization, Culture, and Policy Outcomes. Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 17 (1991), pp. 327-350. Accessed 08/04/2010 JSTOR pg. 333

[21]Dreier, Peter, Mollenkope, John, Swanstrom, Todd. Place Matters: Metropolitics for the Twenty-First Century, University Press of Kansas 2004.  Pg. 251

 
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