A Tale of Two Chicagos

Acknowledging that many neighborhoods in Chicago have seen dramatic improvements in livability and income levels, one writer could still identify two Chicagos: “Global Chicago” and “Rust Belt Chicago.”

2 minute read

March 19, 2014, 2:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Chicago skyline

Leandro's World Tour / Flickr

Peter Saunders provides data-based analysis using statistics from the 2011 U.S. Census American Community Survey of the disparities present in the Chicago metropolitan area—split between what he calls “Global Chicago” and “Rust Belt Chicago.”

Saunders begins his analysis from an observation of the city’s rapid pace of change in recent decades. “Chicago's transition from Rust Belt Capital to Global City has been unparalleled. Where there once had been large swaths of middle-class, working-class and impoverished neighborhoods, with high-income enclaves, there are now nearly as many high-income neighborhoods as there are of the other three.”

But to identify the economic and demographic disparities still present amidst the city’s geography, Saunders “compared some socio-economic statistics for the 56 zip codes in Chicago against medians and averages for the entire Chicago metro area (Indiana and Wisconsin excluded).”

Some of his findings: "'Global Chicago' is on par with the Chicago suburbs and the metro area overall in terms of income, and has a lower percentage of minority residents compared to the metro area. Interestingly, ‘Global Chicago’ has a much higher home value and educational attainment when compared to the metro area overall or the 'burbs. Meanwhile, ‘Rust Belt Chicago’ lags far behind. ‘Rust Belt Chicago’ has a large majority-minority population, has an income nearly one-half as much as the suburban households, and has only one-third as many college graduates as 'Global Chicago'."

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