Skip to content
CityLab
Economy

The High Price of a Divided City

Who bears the economic burdens of segregation?
Studying housing segregation in Chicago, Urban Institute researchers find economic impacts across the whole region.
Studying housing segregation in Chicago, Urban Institute researchers find economic impacts across the whole region. AP

Ride Chicago’s Red Line from start to finish and you’ll go on a journey through the metro region’s stark racial segregation, reflected in the changing demographics of the passengers. The first stop at Howard is in Rogers Park, which is relatively diverse itself,* but connects to the majority white, affluent Skokie and Evanston suburbs. Then, the train runs through the downtown business district, Chinatown, and ends on 95th street—at the tip of the majority black Chatham neighborhood.

But what if Chicago wasn’t so siloed? What would happen, say, if its black-white segregation dropped to a level equal to the median of the 100 most populous U.S. metropolitan regions? It’s not just the city’s African-American population that would benefit; the entire region would be better off, a new study by the Urban Institute and the Metropolitan Planning Council finds. Authors Rolf Pendall, Gregory Acs, Mark Treskon, and Amy Khare crunch the numbers for Chicago: