This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Is Chicago Really Shrinking?

A headline in today's New York Times says that "Chicago is now smaller and less black, census shows." That is technically true if we are talking about the City of Chicago, and that obviously matters to the mayor and other elected officials. But if we step back from local politics, we see that the Chicago metro area is not shrinking, nor becoming less black. The real story here is not shrinkage in Chicago, but rather that Americans continue to prefer the suburbs.

While Chicago remains the nation’s third-most-populous city — with 2.69 million people — it lost more than 200,000 residents during the last decade, Census Bureau figures released Tuesday show.
That is about a 7 percent decrease, a sharper drop than some leaders had expected and gloomy news for the city’s budget writers (who have to worry about the tax base) and elected officials (who have to worry about who will bear the political brunt of redistricting).
The decline among blacks may be explained in part by migration to the suburbs, the demolition of thousands of high-rise public housing units and a broader population shift to the South.
Even as the city shrank, a ring of suburbs along its fringes expanded rapidly. In fact, two of those counties — Will and Kendall — will probably rank among the fastest-growing counties in the nation over the last decade, said Kenneth M. Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire.
This is, in fact, a familiar story among America's cities. We saw it first in Cleveland as long ago as the 1950s, as residents left the inner city for the suburbs, and central city residents in many of the country's older cities, in particular, have been voting with their feet for past two to three decades. This is not the same, then, as the phenomenon in New Orleans, where people abandoned the metro area for other parts of the country.

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