Should Chinatowns Stay Chinese?

Chicago’s Chinatown, a thriving neighborhood with locally owned businesses and a growing Asian population, is bucking a national trend. Around the country, the Asian populations in Chinatowns are decreasing, as the neighborhoods grow whiter and wealthier. Source: Getty Images.

Chicago’s Chinatown, a thriving neighborhood with locally owned businesses and a growing Asian population, is bucking a national trend. Around the country, the Asian populations in Chinatowns are decreasing, as the neighborhoods grow whiter and wealthier.   Source: Getty Images.

Teresa Córdova, director of the UIC Great Cities Institute, and Janet Smith, co-director of UIC’s Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement, were interviewed by Stateline regarding the gentrification of Chinatowns across the country, and how Chicago’s Chinatown is an outlier experiencing a growing Asian population.

Chicago’s Chinatown is growing — and becoming more Chinese — even as many other cities’ Chinatowns, along with their Little Tokyos and Koreatowns, are starting to shrink in the face of encroaching development.

People who want to preserve ethnic enclaves such as Chicago’s Chinatown say they provide essential social networks to newcomers and established residents alike. They also provide vital tourism dollars to their cities, and their microbusinesses serve as “the No. 1 job creators,” said Seema Agnani, executive director of the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD).

“What distinguishes a really exciting city from the same old, same old? It’s the character of its people,” said Teresa Córdova, director of the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “And ethnic enclaves are a part of that.”

Full story from Pew Charitable Trusts »

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