Socioeconomic shifts in the Chicago region 

Understanding demographic trends is crucial to developing plans and policies related to the region’s land use, economic development, housing, and transportation systems. Socioeconomic shifts affect important economic factors including labor supply, job distribution, and labor market polarization. By planning effectively for these demographic changes, the region can set the stage for inclusive growth that benefits all of its communities and residents.

This policy update analyzes recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population and Housing Unit Estimates, focusing on trends in the racial and ethnic composition within the CMAP region’s seven counties: Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will. This update supplements a previous CMAP analysis indicating that the region’s population is declining, aging, and losing families. It also builds on a recent ON TO 2050 demographics snapshot — which highlighted regional trends of age, ethnicity, race, and other factors — by expanding that analysis to include income.

A young person biking over a bridge.

As prior updates and the snapshot report indicated, while the Chicago region experiences stagnation and declines in population, it continues to grow increasingly diverse. Hispanic and Asian populations are growing in the region, while white and black populations are declining. While some of these shifts are occurring nationwide, the declining black population in the Chicago region is of concern because it is not occurring in peer metropolitan areas. Data on income by race also suggests our region has been unable to retain and attract lower-income or minority households. 

Residents choose to live where economic opportunities exist for them. A shrinking resident base suggests limited economic opportunity and further inhibits economic growth. These demographic trends have significant implications for the region’s economy, quality of life, and cost of living, requiring long-term planning to help retain residents and businesses.