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How We've Changed

The United States as a whole gained more than 25 million people since the last decennial Census in 2000. The historical trend continued in 2007 where eastern states lost and western states gained population. Chicago, as the third largest city in the country, has experienced mostly moderate but some drastic changes.

Contrary to 2000 when Chicago gained population (2,895,964) for the first time in several decades, the city lost 5.5 percent (2,737,996) of its residents as of 2007. Though Cook County's loss was not as dramatic (1.7 percent), considering rapid increases experienced in what was once considered outlying counties like Will and McHenry in recent years, ever-expanding suburbanization further away from Chicago may be very much alive. In this ever-changing place, the composition of people and housing stocks are good indicators of the ways in which the city is perceived and utilized.

There is a common belief that many married couples leave their city dwellings by the time their children reach school ages. Many people also believe that those suburban parents who sent their children off to colleges move back into the city. While we do not have direct evidence to determine whether these are indeed what has happened, Chicago's demographic changes does make one wonder about the merit of these claims.

Although the city's median age did not change much from 2000 when it was 33.8 to 34.1 in 2007, Chicago lost 12.6 percent of children under 15 (642,052 to 560,967), which was compensated by adults aged between 45 and 64 whose population increased by 14 percent (544,221 to 620,317). More specifically, the loss of children was quite dramatic between 5- and 9-years old (222,003 to 172,375, or 22.4 percent), as was the gain among 55- to 59-year old adults (115,857 to 144,841, or 25.0 percent).

These are significant changes for such institutions as Chicago Public Schools or Chicago Department of Aging, who must anticipate the number of people they need to service in near future.

Gender composition in Chicago broken down by marital status becomes quite pronounced: having grown over 6 percent since 2000, there are numerically more single males (504,972) than single females (476,221); 38 percent of males belong in the category compared to 44% of females. Both married and divorced men increased by 3.6 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively while married and divorced women decreased by 3.5 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively.

As a result, a noticeably higher proportion of males (37.2 percent) were married than females (33.8 percent), and a higher proportion of females (10.8 percent) were widowed than males (2.8 percent). Given that women tend live longer than men, it is not surprising that there are many more women (105,478) who are widowed compared to men (25,609). There are more divorced women in the city than divorced men both proportionately (10.8 percent to 7.5 percent) and numerically (115,175 to 83,161). All these lead to 60.2 percent of Chicago residents over 15 years old being single, divorced, or widowed, which is an increase from 56.6 percent in 2000.

Similar to the population, the number of homes occupied also decreased by 3.7 percent(1,022,916) although the percentage of home ownership jumped from 43.8 percent in 2000 to 49.9 percent in 2007. However, the impact of recent wave of foreclosures will probably begin to surface in next year's results and are likely to bring down the rate of home ownership.

While many believe that people flee the city seeking more space, the size of homes appears to be increasing in the city: studio apartments decreased by 27.7 percent (78,355 to 56,668) but homes with three bedrooms increased by 16.6 percent (286,899 to 334,627), four-bedroom homes by 32 percent (75,478 to 99,652), and five-bedroom or more in homes by 49.5 percent (31,252 to 46,712).

Perhaps due to increase in size of homes, along with the increased demand, 41.3 percent of renters in the city spent more than 35 percent of their income on housing. This is a significant increase from 2000 when the proportion was 30.8 percent. Similarly, 30.2 percent of home owners also spend more than 35 percent of their income toward housing.

Other tidbits about Chicago housing that are interesting include, despite much discussion about environment, only 108 homes estimated for using solar energy as heating fuel, which is 75.4 percent decrease from 439, and dramatic decrease in the number homes without plumbing from 11,445 to 4,729.

The Chicago Transit Authority would be interested in knowing that the number of households that do not own cars declined by 14.7 percent from 306,336 to 261,410 but the number of households that have three or more cars increased by 11.8 percent (66,863 to 74,777).

Finally, as a result of massive distribution of cellular phones, dramatic increase in those homes without telephones from 57,186 to 67,449.

The latest release from the Census Bureau indicates that Chicago's population and housing conditions are changing quite rapidly during this decade, and all these changes will undoubtedly impact the ways in which funding is allocated in education, social services, and transportation. By and large, the city has become older with more large homes at higher cost while families with school-aged children continue to leave. Though it is unknown how long this trend will persist, it is important to keep in mind that a vibrant city has to have the ability to provide homes and opportunities to diverse group of people not simply for the sake of celebrating diversity but to maintain economic efficiency.


Kiljoong Kim is a Senior Research Associate in the Social Science Research Center at DePaul University. For more Kiljoong, see the Who We Are archive.


Posted on September 30, 2008

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