Lynda Lopez made some comments a few days ago about misperceptions of the whiteness of the North Side that got me thinking:

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Even for people outside Chicago, the “sides” are heavily racially coded: North is white, South and West are black. (Curiously, I’m not sure that any are especially coded as Latino, despite the large Latino population in the city.)

But these codes are, in fact, not terribly accurate. The North Side is certainly white-er than the South or West Sides, for example—but it’s barely over half non-Hispanic white according to recent American Community Survey data.

Anyway, this got me thinking about what these actual numbers are, and how they’ve changed over time. Thanks to Rob Paral, getting community area-level data going back to 1930 is extremely easy. Rolling that up into “sides” doesn’t take much more work—just some tough decision-making where it’s not obvious how to divide things up. So: consider this the first of a sporadic series investigating what the “sides” of our city actually look like.

First up: race and population.

Note: Data is limited by what the Census asked for at different points; adding things up, it’s clear that there are big shifts from “Other” to “Latino” (actually asked as “Spanish name” at first) and from “Other” to “Asian American” when those categories become available.

1. The South Side

For my purposes, the South Side is everything south of the Stevenson expressway/the south branch of the Chicago River. It includes, then, both clear “South Side” neighborhoods like Bridgeport and Englewood, but also “Southwest Side” neighborhoods like Brighton Park and Ashburn.

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2. The West Side

The West Side here is everything north of the Stevenson, west of the Chicago River, and south of North Avenue, except for a) West Town, and b) the Near West Side.

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3. The North Side

The North Side here is everything above North Avenue, but also West Town.

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