Chicago, the New Capital of Segregation

Chicago has long been known as the oldest and most powerful politicali machine in the U.S.  What is not so well-known is that "Daley's modern Chicago was built ... on an unstated foundation: commitment to racial segregation"ii.  In 1959 the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights called Chicago "the most residentially segregated large city in America"iii.

To this day, the majority of Chicago's African-Americans live in the same areas they have occupied for the past 100 years.  Ethnic maps from 1920iv and 2000 support this point.  In 2000, 35 years after passage of the Civil Rights and Fair Housing Acts, it was found that for the city to be integrated in housing and education, 90% of the black residents would have to movev.

James Q. Wilson noted that Chicago has a black submachine, a political entity that could not exist without the larger white-controlled political machinevi.  The two largest black population areas now make up the two black congressional districts. They are represented by African-American Congressmen Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Bobby Rush.  Jackson's district is 67% black, Rush's 64%.  It is this machine structure that made the original black segregation possible and is now used to create the Hispanic submachine.

Not only has little progress been made in the integration of blacks into Chicago since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, but the government-sanctioned housing segregation practices have been expanded in the past twenty-five years to an entirely new ethnic group: Hispanics.

This "Second Wave" of housing segregation was created not by the racial prejudice of Chicago residents or realtors against Hispanics, but by government, both local and federal.  In fact, the Chicago Political Machine is empowered by federal legislation to create segregated neighborhoods.  This is because the 1965 Voting Rights Act and amendments encourage racial segregation under the guise of ethnic representation.  In 1985, Federal Judge Norgle, in response to the request of Chicago machine aldermen, redrew several wards of Chicago to make them majority-Hispanic.  Then, in 2011, Chicago redrew many aldermanic wards again to create a total of 14 Hispanic "supermajority" wards that are more than 65% Hispanic.  And it is not just Chicago that is now segregating Hispanics; New York City's ethnic mapvii based on the 2000 census indicates the same pattern.

Since FDR's New Deal program, the Chicago machine has used federal benefit programs to attract immigrants.  This tactic was, and continues to be, very effective.  As historian Biles notes: "most immigrants responded to the machine's attention to their immediate socioeconomic needs"viii.  Government offices are located in immigrant communities.  This enables Hispanics to readily locate in cities, where the city fathers are anxious to roll out the benefit red carpet to Hispanics to make up for population losses.  These benefits include the matricula consular card, a card that functions as a legal form of ID in the state of Illinois.

Paradoxically, these new Hispanic barrios are being created and sanctioned by the federal laws and programs that were designed to integrate African-Americans into mainstream American urban life in the 1960s and place them into better schools.

Walter Williams has summarized this trend by stating that fairness and good intentions are not economic, but political conceptsix.  These political concepts are converted into ethnically based residence goals, which are then used to create supermajority wards and congressional districts.  As a result, today, the Fourth Congressional District of Luis Gutierrez is 74% Hispanic, and it meanders -- gerrymanders -- through the city all the way to the suburbs, so that as many Hispanic voters as possible can be captured.

However, whether racially segregated neighborhoods are created by racial prejudice or the ethnically based mandates of the Voting Rights Act, the consequences for the residents are the same.

For example, the Pew Hispanic Center reported in 2009 that the teenage pregnancy rate among Hispanic teenage girls is now higher than that of blacks, and this is nationwide, not just in Chicago.  Today, one in every four Hispanic teenage girls is a mother by age 19x.  And these are the foreign-born teenage females, those most likely to seek benefits in the supermajority neighborhoods.  Similarly, their high school dropout rates are nearly double those of African-Americansxi, historically the most segregated group.  Across the U.S. today, half of all Hispanic youths aged 16 to 24 are not enrolled in high school or collegexii.

Some politicians have argued that single motherhood is a legacy of slavery, that families were broken apart when they were sold to different owners.  Walter Williams points to many studies that show, however, that two-parent families were the norm even during slaveryxiii.  Single motherhood is not historically caused by slavery; rather, it seems to be promoted by federal government policies that reward single motherhood.  Support for this is the fact that single motherhood is becoming rampant in the Hispanic supermajority communities at a much faster rate, since the institutional bases for it were already in place by 1970, when Hispanics began moving to the U.S. in significant numbers.

Since the 1960s, Democrats have always been proud of the safety net programs they create.  But they should have known, based on the high single motherhood rate, unemployment, and dropout rates experienced by African-Americans in big-city ghettoes, that creating more housing segregation would have the same effects.  However, they went ahead and created barrios for the Hispanics with no regard for the social consequences.

The maps of Chicago and New York show how Hispanics are being directed toward highly racially segregated neighborhoods, just as African-Americans were in the 1920s.  Only this time it's done with administrative language that is deceptively wrapped in a soothing lather of bureaucratic high ideals and good intentions.  These good intentions and policies of fairness not only continue to keep blacks in highly segregated neighborhoods, but have created segregated Hispanic neighborhoods.

iCohen and Taylor, p. 7.

iiId. p. 10.

iiiId. p. 347.

ivSpear, Map 4.

vCohen and Taylor, p. 11.

viWilson p. 24.

viiNewest New Yorkers, p. 24.

viiiBiles, p. 2.

ixWilliams, pp. 2,3.

xPew Center, p. 69.

xiId. p. 48.

xiiId. p. 45.

xiiiWilliams, p. 7.


Biles, R. (1984). Big city boss in depression and war: Mayor Edward J. Kelly of Chicago. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois U. Press.

Cohen, A., & Taylor, E. (2000). American Pharoah: Mayor Richard J. Daley, his battle for Chicago and the nation. New York: Little, Brown and Co.

New York City Dept. of City Planning. The newest New Yorkers 2000: Immigrant New York in the new millennium. Briefing booklet. NYC DCP#04-09, October, 2004.

Pew Hispanic Center, (2009). Between two worlds: How young Latinos [Hispanics} come of age in America. Washington, D.C.: Pew Research Center.

Spear, A. (1967). Black Chicago: The making of a negro ghetto 1890-2910. Chicago and London: U. of Chicago Press.

Williams, W.E. (2011).  Race and economics: How much can be blamed on discrimination? Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press.

Wilson, J.Q. (1960). Negro politics: The search for leadership. New York: The Free Press.

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