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UIC Study Explores Racial Residential Segregation in Chicago

By Camela Furry in News on Dec 2, 2009 5:20PM

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Photo by rjseg1
A new study led by a UIC researcher - performed in conjunction with the University of Michigan - shows that "racial residential segregation in the Chicago area may be perpetuated by a lack of knowledge of communities across racial lines." In 2005, researchers surveyed more than 700 adults 21 years of age and older living in Cook County, Illinois to examine how whites, blacks and Latinos differ in awareness of neighborhoods in Chicago and surrounding areas. Respondents in the study were asked to look at a map which highlighted 41 communities located in and around the city and mark any area they didn’t know anything about. The researchers called these areas community blind spots. The 41 areas represented a variety of communities in and outside the city - from communities with expensive housing to those with moderately priced housing, and from communities that are racially segregated to those that are integrated. Regardless of the variety and types of communities represented, the blind spot communities were very different along racial lines.

The survey which is the basis for the study “Racial Blind Spots: Black-White-Latino Differences in Community Knowledge” shows how races determine neighborhoods and how racial residential segregation in Chicago may be perpetuated by a lack of awareness of communities across racial lines. Marian Krysan, an associate professor at University of Illinois at Chicago and lead author of the study said, “It would be unlikely for someone to move to a community that they didn’t know anything about,” and “possibly, if they knew about more neighborhoods with different racial composition, they could make moves that could counter the segregated patterns we observe in Chicago and other major metropolitan areas.”

There were other interesting findings from the study:

• Whites were generally unfamiliar with communities that featured a significant black population. Other blind spots for whites included several racially integrated communities, including a few with majority white populations, like Beverly and Homewood/Flossmoor.

• The relatively unknown communities for at least one-third of blacks included distant suburbs with majority white populations (Libertyville, Crystal Lake), as well as racially and ethnically diverse neighborhoods within city limits (Uptown, Logan Square, Albany Park).

• Latino respondents, compared to whites and blacks, had more than double the number of blind-spot communities, but their lists of communities mostly overlapped those of whites.

• With more than half of the 41 communities considered unknown by one-third or more of the Latino respondents, their blind spots did not represent a specific community type.

• There were fewer racial/ethnic differences in knowledge of communities when respondents from similar social, economic and geographic characteristics were compared.

Krysan admits it’s not surprising that racial groups would have greater awareness of communities where their group has a presence but she said, “the pattern is stronger for whites than African-Americans and Latinos, who overall have fewer racial blind spots.” Researchers recommend that community leaders and policy makers give more attention to affirmative marketing policies and increase awareness of available housing options in other communities.