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Report: Decades After Civil Rights, Chicago Still Segregated

Local groups, such as IIRON, have been working to create more equitable economic conditions for all Chicagoans. (Kristi Sanford/IIRON)
Local groups, such as IIRON, have been working to create more equitable economic conditions for all Chicagoans. (Kristi Sanford/IIRON)
March 3, 2016

CHICAGO – More than 50 years has passed since the Civil Rights Act became law, but a new report shows Chicago still has a serious residential segregation problem.

In 1967, Illinois Gov. Otto Kerner's national commission found that the country was moving toward a more segregated society.

Stephanie Bechteler, research and evaluation director at the Chicago Urban League, authored the study, which shows not much has changed for at least 19 predominantly African-American communities in the city.

"The unemployment rates in these areas are very high and there's a lot of people that are living at or below the poverty level,” she points out. “This is still part of that ongoing impact of really long-standing segregation policies."

The 100-page report lists several suggestions for creating a more equitable Chicago, including expanding public transit options for these neighborhoods as well as adding more affordable housing.

Bechteler says considering many of these problems date back to the Great Migration of black Southerners to the north more than 100 years ago, there will be no quick fixes.

However, she argues that more public and private investments in the city's most segregated neighborhoods now could have positive effects in the future.

"We really need to see employment opportunities, jobs, small businesses,” she states. “So, homegrown small businesses within the community areas growing up, as well as external employers who are looking to bring opportunities back into the community."

The Chicago Urban League will be sharing its findings with city lawmakers to get them to consider making changes to housing, transportation and education policies.


Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL