Great Cities Releases Eight Reports over the Last Month

Great Cities, with several of its partners, has released eight reports over the last month on topics including empowerment of women experiencing domestic abuse, a statewide profile of groups doing racial equity work, impacts of COVID on youth joblessness, conditions affecting immigrant communities, neighborhood profiles on The Western Suburbs, Pilsen, and Puerto Rico Town, and water recycling.

We had the great pleasure of working with Mujeres Latinas en Acción, the longest standing Latina-led organization in the country, on their first ever position paper, ¡Actívate! A community-data driven guide to help Latinas and their families thrive. Based on a survey, focus groups, and a community assessment, the report provides insights on immigrant justice, economic justice, women’s health, and gender-based violence. The GCI team was led by Norma Hernandez, who has since been elected to the Illinois State House of Representatives representing the 77th District. Look for information on Mujeres’ website about their 50th Anniversary celebration on June 16, 2023.

Another GCI team, led by Associate Director for Neighborhoods Initiative, Thea Crum, worked with the Grand Victoria Foundation (GVF) to conduct the Illinois Racial Justice and Equity Landscape Study. On April 26, 2023, GVF held an event to release the findings of the analysis, which you can view here. This “groundbreaking study” sheds light on the challenges faced by Black communities across Illinois, with a specific focus on 81 “Black population centers” throughout the state where 30% or more of the residents identify as Black, outside of Chicago and Cook County. With a mission-driven approach, GVF and GCI aim to use this research to understand the lived experiences, aspirations, and challenges of these communities, and to identify ways to support their efforts towards equity and justice.

Our report, Who Lives in Pilsen? The Trajectory of Gentrification in Pilsen in the Last Two Decades, identifies demographic and socio-economic changes in the Lower West Side and its subareas. This report was initiated by UIC Urban Planning and Policy Professor John J. Betacur and authored with Great Cities researcher, Alex Linares. The data depicts trends that show the displacement of low-income Latino renters, especially those with families with children. Pilsen is shifting from a predominantly Latino (primarily Mexican) neighborhood of families with children to smaller households with fewer children. Single and two-person non-family households increased from a third of all household types to 43% of the total. Educational attainment for adults over age 25, including that of Hispanic or Latinos, has also increased. These increases in single and two-person non-family households and educational attainment levels suggest the movement of professionals into the neighborhood. This is further validated by the fact that in 2016-2020, the median household income of the Lower West Side increased to near parity to the City of Chicago’s median household income, another indication of increasing gentrification. The report concludes with strategies to increase affordable housing in the neighborhood.

As previously documented by GCI, youth joblessness and disconnection from school and work are ongoing systemic issues in Chicago, with higher rates of violence in areas of concentrated youth joblessness (Córdova and Wilson, 2017a). Great Cities has released another in its series of data reports and briefings on youth joblessness.  Our most recent data illustrates the Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Youth and Young Adult Employment in Chicago, Illinois, and the U.S. Authored by Matt Wilson, Associate Director of GCI’s Economic and Workforce Development Initiative, and Brandon Patterson, James J. Stukel Student Fellow, the data brief, produced for the Alternative Schools Network, examines how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted rates of youth joblessness and what has been the pace, if any, of recovery. The brief quantifies the pandemic’s impact on jobless, and jobless and out of school rates for young people, breaking down the data by race/ethnicity, and sex for Chicago, Illinois, and the U.S.

On May 3, 2023, at the Governor’s Mansion, Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Immigrant Impact Task Force released the The Illinois Immigrant Impact Task Report. The report, prepared by the Great Cities Institute’s Rob Paral, with the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) provides recommendations that the state can use to improve services to immigrant communities. Some of the issues that the report identifies include citizenship assistance, business development, education access, discrimination prevention, immigration detention, COVID-19 relief, and language access programs. In a press release from the Governor’s Office, State Senator Celina Villanueva states, “All immigrants face unique challenges in accessing the services and support they need to thrive and start their path toward a better life…We commend IDHS for making the needs and challenges of immigrants across Illinois a priority, as they are providing sustainable and sufficient resources to not only undocumented immigrants but to ALL immigrants who are in need.” Senator Villanueva was among the panelists that joined Governor Pritzker and Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton to discuss issues affecting immigrant communities in Illinois. Other panelists included Dr. Maggie Rivera, President/CEO of the Illinois Migrant Council, Luis Gutierrez, CEO of Latinos Progresando, and Grace Pai, Executive Director of the Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

From Waste to Water: A Framework for Sustainable Freshwater Supply in Northeastern Illinois, was produced for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Great Chicago and was produced by an interdisciplinary team from the Great Cities Institute, UIC’s Freshwater Lab, and the Sustainable Engineering Lab. The report is especially relevant considering recent agreements by the City of Chicago to sell its potable drinking water to Joliet, including industrial use in an area with a large industrial footprint. The report emphasize that water recycling maximizes available water supply and supports commercial endeavors in situations of scarcity represents an essential piece of such adaptive infrastructure. The report addresses technical issues around treatment and delivery of recycled water as well as its public health and environmental implications; Provides a cost-benefit analysis that serves to overcome political and economic barriers to adoption; Suggests that large-scale water reuse can play a role in job creation and economic revitalization; and Addresses scenarios and solutions for uneven water geography in northeastern Illinois, characterized by urban flooding along the Lake Michigan coast and impending collapse of the inland Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer.

Latinos in the suburbs have grown at a high rate within the last decade and now account for 60% of all Latinos in the Chicago metro area. This growth, however, has not led to equitable opportunities for Latinos to participate civically, even while the community has serious needs in terms of education, healthcare, and access to safe and well remunerated employment. The gap between the growth of Latinos on one hand and lack of civic representation and responsive public policies on the other, underscores the need to examine and publicize data and information on the size and scope of the Latino population. The Great Cities Institute partnered with Healthy Communities Foundation and The Community Memorial Foundation to provide data on Latinos in the Chicago Western Suburbs that will equip community leaders to advocate for greater inclusion in public decision-making that affects Latinos, their families, and their neighborhoods. The individuals who would benefit from new data include local residents, elected officials, municipal employees, advocates, and the news media. Click here to access the Latinos in the Western Suburbs Micro Date Site.

Through the concerted focus of the Puerto Rican Agenda, on August 27, 2021, Senate Bill 1833 was signed into law by Governor J.B. Pritzker. The bill, introduced by Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas, not only made such a cultural district possible for Puerto Rican Town, but also for other communities in Illinois to preserve their cultural heritage.  As a result of this long-term effort to protect their presence in and cultural identity of their community, members of the Puerto Rican Agenda will pursue this cultural designation from the State of Illinois for Puerto Rico Town. The purpose of the Puerto Rico Town Databook is to be a source of information for that effort. This Databook provides information on demographic trends and socio-economic indicators in Puerto Rico Town. The data illustrates recent changes and identifies challenges that must be tackled to strengthen the cultural, housing, and economic opportunities for Puerto Rican residents of Puerto Rico Town. Each section of the report is accompanied by additional notes on community members’ visions for the area collected from a meeting of the Puerto Rican Agenda on March 5, 2022. This Databook aims to serve as a resource for those community organizations working to protect Puerto Rico Town from further gentrification, shield residents from displacement, provide economic opportunity, and preserve the community’s Puerto Rican culture. The Databook is a product of GCI’s Latino Research Initiative.

As you can see, we continue to be busy at Great Cities, working hard to serve our partners and the larger communities in the Chicago region, Illinois, and beyond.

Thank you for your interest in Great Cities.