Latino Research Initiative



The Great Cities Institute is launching the Latino Research Initiative so that it may become a hub for providing relevant data to policy makers, co-producing research with community partners, and creating a pipeline of trained Latino researchers.

The Latino Research Initiative provides:

    1. Data regarding Latinos in Illinois available upon request by legislators, directors of agencies and non-profits, press, etc.
    2. A research training program to build a pipeline of Latinos who have the capacity to provide data and research
    3. Workshops for Latino professionals on the use and interpretation of data
    4. Programming on research reports.



Photo Credits: Zuno Photographic





The Current Migrant Crisis: How U.S. Policy Toward Latin America Has Fueled Historic Numbers of Asylum Seekers

This report briefly outlines the evidence that U.S. economic warfare against three specific countries – Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua – is a significant cause of the latest migration surge. It argues, furthermore, that progressive U.S. leaders and the general public should advocate for a more humane and responsible foreign policy – one that could not only dramatically reduce migration from the region but also address the mushrooming labor shortage within the U.S.






New Perspective and Information on Latinos in Chicago’s Western Suburbs 

In the past decade, Chicago’s Latino population has surged, comprising 60% of the metro area. However, this growth has not translated into equitable civic engagement or access to vital services like education and healthcare. To address this disparity, data on Latino demographics is crucial. Partnering with Healthy Communities Foundation and The Community Memorial Foundation, the Great Cities Institute provided data on Latinos in Chicago’s Western Suburbs. This information empowers community leaders to advocate for inclusive public policies. Beneficiaries include residents, officials, advocates, and media, all working towards a more representative and responsive environment for Latinos and their communities.





Latinos in the Suburbs: Challenges & Opportunities

This collaborative report from the Latino Policy Forum, the Metropolitan Planning Council, and the Great Cities Institute delves into the experiences of Latinos in Chicago’s suburbs, where over half of Illinois’s Latino population resides. It analyzes their opportunities, challenges, and disparities compared to non-Latino residents, covering income, demographics, education, and community integration. The report emphasizes the importance of local leadership in addressing these issues and suggests prioritizing policies at regional, county, and municipal levels. Recognizing the socioeconomic impact, it advocates for concerted efforts to support Latino residents, highlighting their success as vital for the broader prosperity of Illinois, Chicago, and the suburbs.





A Community-Data Driven Plan to Help Latinas and Their Families Thrive 

GCI worked 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.






The Trajectory of Gentrification in Pilsen from 2000-2020 

GCI’s report, “Who Lives in Pilsen? The Trajectory of Gentrification,” examines demographic shifts in Chicago’s Lower West Side. Initiated by UIC Professor John J. Betacur and researcher Alex Linares, it highlights displacement of low-income Latino families, with a rise in smaller, non-family households. Educational attainment has increased, suggesting professional influx. Median household income nearly matches Chicago’s, indicating gentrification. Strategies to preserve affordable housing are recommended.






Illinois Immigrant Impact Task Report

Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Immigrant Impact Task Force unveiled the Illinois Immigrant Impact Task Report on May 3, 2023, highlighting recommendations to enhance services for immigrant communities. Prepared by Rob Paral of the Great Cities Institute in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), the report addresses citizenship assistance, business development, education access, discrimination prevention, immigration detention, COVID-19 relief, and language programs. Senator Villanueva, along with Governor Pritzker and Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton, led discussions on immigrant issues, joined by panelists Dr. Maggie Rivera, Luis Gutierrez, and Grace Pai, representing various advocacy organizations.





Puerto Rico Town Databook

Through the Puerto Rican Agenda’s advocacy, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed Senate Bill 1833 on August 27, 2021, enabling cultural districts like Puerto Rican Town to preserve their heritage. The Puerto Rican Agenda now aims to secure this designation for Puerto Rican Town, aided by the Puerto Rico Town Databook, offering demographic and socio-economic data highlighting recent changes and challenges. It includes community members’ visions gathered from a March 5, 2022 meeting. This resource, part of GCI’s Latino Research Initiative, supports efforts to combat gentrification, prevent displacement, foster economic opportunities, and safeguard Puerto Rican culture in Puerto Rico Town.






Latin Immigrant Communities within the Chicago and Suburban Metropolitan Region 

GCI collaborated with the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy to create a report for Metropolitan Family Services on Chicago’s Latino neighborhoods. Led by Alderman Gilbert Villegas, the Chicago City Council Latino Caucus announced the report’s release on October 11, 2017. Titled “The Latino Neighborhoods Report: Issues and Prospects for Chicago,” it focused on twelve neighborhoods with over 25,000 Latino residents, utilizing U.S. Census data. José Miguel Acosta-Córdova authored the report, supported by our mentorship through the James J. Stukel Fellows Program. While aimed at aiding Metropolitan Family Services, the report is a resource for various stakeholders including social services agencies, policymakers, and researchers, facilitating better service delivery to Chicago’s Latino communities.





Deportation and Detention: The Psychosocial Impact on Migrant Youth and Families

Amidst heart-wrenching stories of family separation at the border, public pressure led to some policy easing, yet many families remain separated, with ongoing fears of detention and deportation, even in Chicago. Recognizing the deep-rooted history of these issues, GCI hosted a symposium that explored the psychosocial impacts of deportation and detention on migrant youth and families. Hosted by UIC Center for Global Health, the Institute for the Humanities Global Migration Working Group, and the Great Cities Institute, supported by Healthy Communities Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust, the event featured keynote speaker Dr. Luis H. Zayas and three panel discussions. Video of the symposium is available for view.





Lower Wages and Continued Occupational and Industrial Segmentation of Latinos in the Chicago Economy 

This Master’s thesis underscores persistent wage disparities for Latinos in low-wage sectors in Chicago, even with educational attainment. Latinos earn lower wages across all categories compared to other racial/ethnic groups, highlighting the economic challenges faced by Latino households. Despite the surge in the Latino population since 1980, their economic progress has not kept pace with other groups. The influx of Latino immigrants has been vital for sustaining and growing industries in Chicago, transforming it from an industrial to a service-based economy. This research suggests that Latino labor has played a crucial role in Chicago’s economic evolution, highlighting its significance in the city’s development.





Pilsen Quality-of-Life Plan

The 2017 Pilsen Quality-of-Life Plan builds on a decade of efforts by the Pilsen Planning Committee (PPC) and its partnering organizations to preserve Mexican and Latino culture. It outlines strategies for affordable housing, economic stability, education, arts, safety, and community health. The participatory process involved over 1,000 residents and stakeholders who prioritized seven key areas affecting Pilsen’s quality of life. Developed by 80 organizations, the plan includes actionable recommendations, with some initiatives already underway, like a local business council and a community education center. It is designed to evolve alongside changing community needs, serving as a flexible guide for future improvements in the neighborhood.





Pilsen Quality-of-Life Plan Existing Conditions Data Report

The Great Cities Institute, in collaboration with the Pilsen Planning Committee (PPC), developed a new Quality-of-Life plan for Pilsen in 2016. This data report outlines neighborhood demographics, housing, economy, workforce, and community institutions, providing context for the 2016 plan. Pilsen, a historically Latino community, boasts strengths such as its cultural identity, proximity to downtown, public transit, and affordable housing. The participatory planning process involved key stakeholders, aiming to build on past successes, including governance structures established in the 2006 plan.






Research Maps and Fact Sheets 

GCI maintains a collection of “fact sheets” on a broad set of topics including population dynamics, economic inequality, employment, and more. These fact sheets call attention to critical issues in Chicago, the Chicagoland region, and Illinois, and are utilized by advocacy organizations, grant writers, media outlets, and researchers.