Economically disconnected area clusters in the CMAP region

Inclusive economic growth is key to promoting the region’s competitiveness and increasing prosperity for all residents. New research illustrates a relationship between economic inequality and regional economic prosperity. Decreasing economic inequality produces longer and stronger periods of regional economic growth. Regions are more likely to succeed when they engage all residents and provide opportunities for them to engage with and contribute to the regional economy. Planning and other policy decisions made by local and regional actors influence whether and how residents are connected to the economy. 

A path between tall grass, leading to a brick building

The ON TO 2050 inclusive growth strategy paper identified economically disconnected areas (EDAs) in the Chicago region. These areas have higher than regional average concentrations of low-income households and minority or limited English proficiency populations. While EDAs often have strong geographic proximity, they are not homogenous; local communities differ from each other in terms of their context, strengths, and needs. Identifying regional EDA clusters allows for targeted research and policy implementation across multiple issue areas including regional economy, land use, and transportation. 

This analysis indicates disparate outcomes between EDA clusters in various measures, including educational attainment, income, unemployment, housing vacancy, homeownership, and commutes. Measures such as educational attainment have some bearing on economic outcomes, but English proficiency as well as race and ethnicity appear to have a stronger relationship. Majority non-white EDAs generally hold more unfavorable outcomes relative to majority white EDAs, with the least favorable outcomes seen in majority black EDA clusters.

This policy update is the first in a series of three examining the region’s economically disconnected areas (EDAs) and their transportation and commute challenges. This update groups EDAs that are geographically, demographically, and economically similar and discusses trends across them. The second update explores commute patterns and travel trends for workers residing in EDAs, identifying the clusters where commute disparities are highest. The third illustrates several case studies to highlight the role transportation and land use play in linking residents of EDAs and economically connected areas to jobs.