Gentrification in CPS

I have a new article up at The Chicago Bureau. Key map:


Key points:

1. The prediction that school gentrification would follow neighborhood gentrification is being played out dramatically on the North Side right now.

2. Because there is such a strong correlation between school demographics and test scores, these gentrified elementary schools are now doing reliably better than all non-test-in schools in the city–much better, for example, than top charters. (More on that in a future article.)

3. The creation of perhaps the most important middle-class amenity–high-performing schools–in the central city will pull even more middle-class and upper-middle-class people to the relevant neighborhoods.

4. Because housing policy restricts market supply, and Chicago doesn’t have a large number of subsidized or public housing units on the North Side, home prices within gentrified-school attendance areas will rise (are rising) so as to price out even more of the working class and poor.

5. Income segregation in schools is being recreated within the CPS district, divided now by attendance boundaries instead of suburb-city borders.

6. Theoretically, there are things CPS could do about this–more, anyway, than it could do about the existence of middle-class families outside its borders–but it’s very unclear what would work, and what would be possible politically.

4 thoughts on “Gentrification in CPS

  1. The article says that in 2001 there were three high-performing schools. But the map shows five school districts outlined in red for 2001. Why the difference?

  2. Thanks–I should have made that clearer. I don’t count schools where all or part of the student body is chosen via any kind of selective process. On the map, they show up, because they also have neighborhood boundaries.

  3. Housing prices and “gentrified” go together because a neighborhood will not be attractive to the “gentry” if a large fraction of the kids going to school there are performing poorly in school.

    There have been, and in some places there are now, populations of poor people whose children do very, very well in school. But these are rather the exception, and most of the time, parents who do poorly in the economy have kids who do poorly in school. (Broken families are statistically strongly associated with both, for instance.) Higher income families, given the choice between physically equal houses feeding into poor, or upscale, schools, will offer much more for the home in the upscale district. This bids up home prices in the one place, and down in the other. Poor people, by the very meaning of the word “poor”, cannot win the bidding wars for the houses in the districts where higher-income families are bidding against each other for entry.

    If there is any way at all out of this gentrification trend, it will have to involve rules for these schools that lead to them having a functional disciplinary environment, good teachers teaching material that if mastered leads eventually to college, and a mix of “gentry” (living in the upscale district) and “general population”.

    Perhaps a fraction of the seats in every school with good results (in past years) should be open to children from the city at large who can test in either on the basis of some standardized cognitive measure, or on the basis of being way toward the top (whatever absolute level that represents) of their own previous school.

    These rules would allow for some degree of mixing without being explicitly race-based and without killing the golden geese.

    1. Maybe, but I think you’re missing the dynamic here – neighborhoods *do* gentrify without improving the schools; much of Lakeview and Lincoln Park (and Wicker Park, etc.) were already very gentrified before the schools started to improve. It seems to be that gentrification drives school improvement, rather than the other way around. (Although certainly once schools have improved, that fact acts as just another accelerant to wealth attraction.)

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