Regions that offer economic opportunity for residents regardless of race, income, or background enjoy longer, stronger periods of prosperity and fewer, shorter periods of economic stagnation.

Metropolitan Chicago simply cannot thrive when so many people and places are left behind. Despite our many enviable assets, we fall short of ensuring economic opportunity for all residents. Though also true of many other regions, this unfortunate reality is particularly evident here according to numerous measures based on race or ethnicity. For a stronger, more equitable future, our region needs to ensure every resident and community has the ability to fully contribute to and benefit from the economy. By taking deliberate steps region-wide, together we can make progress toward inclusive growth across all seven counties and 284 municipalities and ensure a more robust economy.

Explore the data

Explore the disparate outcomes that minority residents in the Chicago region face compared to other metropolitan areas in the United States.

Multi-chart graphic of disparate outcomes by race/ethnicity in select metropolitan statistical areas, 2012-16

Inequity persists when the location of someone’s home, their race or ethnicity, or socioeconomic status determine their economic success, health, and overall quality of life. This inequality manifests strongly along racial lines, and often can be traced to racially discriminatory policies and practices such as redlining, exclusionary zoning, school segregation, and predatory lending.{{Redlining refers to the now illegal practice of refusing to provide loans or other financial services in neighborhoods with certain demographic characteristics, such as having a high proportion of residents or business owners of color. The practice derives its name from maps developed by the federal Home Owners Loan Corporation in the 1930s, which outlined high minority or low income areas in red. For several decades, these maps were used by the Federal Housing Administration as well as banks and lending institutions to determine loan eligibility, effectively segregating neighborhoods and limiting access to wealth for minorities. For more information, see: Encyclopedia of Chicago, “Redlining”,}} Residents also experience health disparities depending on where they live and work. Promoting inclusive growth can disrupt these patterns and help the region be stronger and more successful economically.    


Estimated change in households by income level and race and ethnicity, Chicago Metropolitan Statistical Area, 2005-15



    Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning analysis of American Community Survey data

    Note: Low income is less than 60 percent of area median income. Moderate income is 60 percent to 140 percent of area median income. High income is more than 140 percent of area median income.

    To compete in the global economy, we must tap the full potential of all our workers, businesses, and infrastructure. Currently, a substantial portion of the region’s human capital — embodied in the talents and skills of excluded residents — is being wasted. Paired with other strategies to capitalize on the region’s economic assets, emphasizing inclusive economic initiatives can help restart long-term growth in disinvested places and increase prosperity across the region.

    Strategies for inclusive growth can also help the region attract and retain a diverse populace. Having recently lost population — particularly among low and moderate income residents as well as black residents — we must take intentional, proactive steps to open doors in communities where opportunity hasn’t knocked for generations as well as pursue economic growth that benefits residents at all skill and income levels.

    Regionally, inequity also takes a toll on communities themselves, many of which have not recovered from the recession. Despite making prudent budget choices, too many municipalities find their tax base limited by long term disinvestment of people and jobs and resulting high vacancies. Combined with decreasing federal and state support, this lack of capacity can make it difficult for municipalities to provide essential services. Inclusive growth can help such communities stem these trends and control their own destiny.

    Long-term regional prosperity requires economic opportunity for all residents and communities.