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As Latino Population Grows, City Leaders Take Stock of Its Needs

A UIC study profiling 12 predominantly Latino neighborhoods in Chicago can drive policy that re-orients where city resources go, politicians say.

Report author José Acosta-Córdova said that Latinos lag behind other groups when it comes to homeownership and education.   Photo: Mauricio Peña

As Chicago’s Latino population grows (it recently surpassed blacks as the largest minority group in the city), politicians need to focus on the evolving needs and distribution of that group, according to a new study released by the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Commissioned by Metropolitan Family Services, the “Latino Neighborhoods Report” was led by José Acosta-Córdova, author and research assistant at UIC’s Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy. The report profiled 12 neighborhoods where Latinos make up the majority of the population: New City (Back of the Yards), Albany Park, Brighton Park, Chicago Lawn (Marquette Park), West Lawn, Gage Park, Irving Park, Lower West Side (Pilsen), South Lawndale (Little Village), Belmont Cragin, Logan Square, and Humboldt Park.

Members of the City Council’s Latino Caucus were on hand at a news conference announcing the report. Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) emphasized that resources should follow the data: “[It’s] not about diversity, but more about parity—making sure that, as the fastest growing community, we’re getting our fair share of resources.”

Here are some of the major takeaways.

1 The education level among Latinos lags behind the black and white communities.  Last year, more than 32 percent of Latinos (25 and older) did not have a high school diploma, compared with 15 percent of African Americans and five percent of non-Hispanic whites. Fifteen percent of Latinos (25 and older) had a bachelor’s degree, compared with 21 percent of African Americans and 62 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

2 While Latinos have a higher median household income than in non-Hispanic whites in five of the 12 neighborhoods profiled, citywide the average Latino household still makes less than its non-Hispanic white counterpart. Last year, median household income for Latino families was just under $49,000, compared with non-Hispanic white households who had a median income of $81,973—more than a $33,000 difference. 

3 A large number of Latinos work in manufacturing and service industries (which typically have lower pay), and fewer Latinos work in higher-paying industries, the report found. Though 8.9 percent of Chicagoans overall work in manufacturing, but 9 to 24 percent of people in Latino neighborhoods do. And while 15.5 percent of all Chicagoans work in higher-paying industries, only 9.8 to 13.7 percent of Latino neighborhoods did the same (with the exception of Logan Square).

4 Researchers found low rates of Latino homeownership and high rates of foreclosures. Pilsen, Little Village, Humboldt Park, Back of the Yards, and Albany Park had homeownership levels below the city average of 44 percent. Between 2008 and 2010, with the exception of the Pilsen and Logan Square, Latino neighborhoods saw higher rates of foreclosures than the city average.

5 All Latino neighborhoods profiled had higher rates of people without health insurance than the city’s overall rate (17 percent). Ten of the Latino neighborhoods were above 23 percent, with Little Village having the highest level of uninsured people at 32 percent.

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