Where the kids are

1. The kids are in the city

Where do children live in the Chicago area? The dominant narrative is that they are in the suburbs, certainly once they reach five or six: most parents just don’t feel comfortable sending their kids to the Chicago Public Schools, nor raising their kids in an apartment, and they can’t afford private school tuition and the cost of a single-family home in the city. (I’m not going to give any evidence that this narrative is the dominant one; if you disagree, I would love to hear what you think the narrative is!)

I was curious about whether this was true, so I went and made some maps. (Full size at the bottom of the post.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To be clear about what these show: These are the percentage of people in each Census tract who are children (under 18), grouped by decile—in other words, the cutoffs for each shade of blue are such that there are an equal number of Census tracts in each of the ten categories. The darker blue the tract, the higher the percentage of kids. The darkest blue tracts are in the top 10% for having the most children; the lightest blue are in the bottom 10%. In short, these maps show a ranking of which neighborhoods have the most kids per capita.

The map shows not just the city (which you can make out in the center, with its 77 community areas outlined), but much of the metropolitan area. After the city’s web of community areas, the other borders are counties.

I would say there are at least three notable dynamics in these maps:

A. In basically each decade, there are two big concentrations of children: In a suburban ring; and on the city’s South and West Sides.

B. In each decade, the suburban ring of children gets farther and farther away from the city. At the same time, the concentration on the South and West Sides moves outward slightly, spilling into some of the inner suburbs.

C. The gentrified North and Northwest Sides become very low-kid as they gentrify.

(There are also some sort of second-tier things that stand out: The growing concentration of kids in the North Shore suburbs above Evanston; the relative desert of children in some of the more middle-class black neighborhoods of the South Side, like Chatham.)

So what’s the verdict? I would say the conventional wisdom is substantially wrong. In fact, at this point, a random Chicago neighborhood is likely to have a much greater population of children than many suburbs—certainly in Cook, and even DuPage counties. That is, there are way more kids in, say, Washington Park or Hermosa than in Skokie, or even Naperville. The sort of Levittown, tract-homes-with-young-families kind of postwar suburbia seems to mostly be a thing of the past, or at least a thing of the far-flung suburbs, rather than the inner ring, or even second ring.

The difference, of course, is that the kid-rich Chicago neighborhood is very unlikely to be white, and likely to be lower income. As with so many things—”everyone I know in this neighborhood drives,” for example—the conventional wisdom is driven by the behavior of the white and professional classes, who do, in fact, seem much more likely to have kids in the suburbs than in the neighborhoods they populate in the city.

2. The kids are coming back to the North Side?

The number of kids is one thing; but to see trends, it’s helpful to map the changes in each decade. (Again, full size at the bottom of the post.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Same as before, except now it’s the change in the percentage of children from one decade to the next. Tracts in blue are becoming relatively more full of kids; tracts in red are becoming less. Importantly, it’s not that blue tracts are seeing more kids in absolute terms: they might just be losing kids more slowly than the rest of the metropolitan area.

A few observations:

A. In some ways, the shifts here match what we saw in the first set of maps. From 1970 to 2000, the gentrifying North Side is falling in the children rankings quite rapidly.

B. In others, there’s a kind of inversion. In both the suburban ring and South and West Side neighborhoods with very high concentrations of children, the trend is mostly a falling in the rankings. That makes some sense, however, given what we know about both of those concentrations moving further out with time, suggesting a relative loss of children on their inner sides.

C. Here’s the big one: After generations of becoming virtually kid-free, the gentrifying North Side (really Lincoln Park, Lakeview, and North Center) ranked as one of the region’s fastest kid-growing populations from 2000 to 2010. If you look closely, you can see the beginnings of the trend from 1990 to 2000, as areas like Lincoln Park, very close to downtown, went from losing ground to roughly holding steady.

This matches some other reporting that gentrification has hit a kind of third wave in some of these neighborhoods east of the river, with artists having been replaced by upper-income childless professionals in their late 20s and 30s, who are now being replaced by mid-career professionals with children (and even more money). It also matches the growing trend of what you might call gentrification of neighborhood public schools.

screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-11-58-01-pm
From my 2014 Next City story linked above.

3. The full-size maps

kids70kids80kids90kids00kids10

kidch80kidch90kidch00kidch10

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Where the kids are

    1. I lived in Hyde Park from 2004-2006 and Lincoln Park from 2011-2012. There were tons of mostly white kids <5 yrs old in both of those places, at both of those times. I would say Lakeview had even more than Lincoln Park. Usually the birth of a second kid, or a kid entering kindergarten was the reason people moved out. Anecdotally, it was often a move out of state rather than a move to the suburbs. (I moved from Lincoln Park with a first grader and two younger kids. We would have stayed as public school gentrifiers but couldn't afford to buy even a condo there)

    2. There has been a boom in children in West Lakeview. I’ve run data showing that the number of children about doubled in the past 10 years in that area.

  1. > So what’s the verdict? I would say the conventional wisdom is substantially wrong. In fact, at this point, a random Chicago neighborhood is likely to have a much greater population of children than many suburbs—certainly in Cook, and even DuPage counties. That is, there are way more kids in, say, Washington Park or Hermosa than in Skokie, or even Naperville. The sort of Levittown, tract-homes-with-young-families kind of postwar suburbia seems to mostly be a thing of the past, or at least a thing of the far-flung suburbs, rather than the inner ring, or even second ring.

    > The difference, of course, is that the kid-rich Chicago neighborhood is very unlikely to be white, and likely to be lower income. As with so many things—”everyone I know in this neighborhood drives,” for example—the conventional wisdom is driven by the behavior of the white and professional classes, who do, in fact, seem much more likely to have kids in the suburbs than in the neighborhoods they populate in the city.

    The “conventional wisdom” is not just driven by the ‘white and professional classes’ – it is by, for, and inherently about white families. Keeping that in mind, I think it is “correct” conventionally (although, as you note, changing). The existence of lots of poorer or less white families in the city is acknowledged in this conventional narrative. It’s not absolutely descriptive of the world, but it’s not wholly baseless either.

  2. Have you considered a population density heat map of just households with kids? I like those for these kinds of comparisons since your map is being skewed by the propensity of non-traditional households to live in dense areas. They may be as many kids in Lincoln Park as a suburban tract, but there are ALSO an equal number of non-family households that make it look lighter on a % map.

    1. I’d be curious to see a good representation of this. Lincoln Park has 22K/sq mi, Oak Park has 11K, Naperville has 4200. Lincoln Park has 30% households with children and Naperville has 45%. Naperville’s average family size is 3.55 – I couldn’t find one for Lincoln Park but I’d be surprised if it was near that.

      So the population stats aren’t thaaaaat different, nowhere near the ~5x difference in population density. Did you mean something like “Children as a % of the population that lives in a family” ? The (rich) city neighborhoods would probably still score low because of small family sizes.

  3. Although I did not share your assumption, this was very interesting to think about. I was born (1965) and raised in West Town. My brother and I both moved to the Northwest side in the late 90’s because we were having kids. A big part of the reason was price – couldn’t afford a single family home in gentrified West Town. But another issue was that I wanted my kids to have other kids to play with. As Frank, at the iconic Bari Foods, disgustedly remarked at the time: “People in this neighborhood used to have kids. Now they have PETS.”
    The kid-rich West Town of my youth was dominated by immigrant families. I note that Jefferson Park, with its growing population of kids, is increasingly so. While it was already a neighborhood of immigrants when we moved in 17 years ago (Poles, Irish, Asian) now my son goes to our neighborhood grade school where the English-language learners speak 33 different languages at home.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s