February 15, 2011 | New York Times | Original Article

Chicago Is Now Smaller and Less Black, Census Shows

CHICAGO — As Chicagoans prepare to vote next week for their first new mayor in decades, the city itself looks different from how it did during much of the era of Mayor Richard M. Daley, who is retiring: it has shrunk, and black people in particular have left.

While Chicago remains the nation’s third-most-populous city — with 2.69 million people — it lost more than 200,000 residents during the last decade, Census Bureau figures released Tuesday show.

That is about a 7 percent decrease, a sharper drop than some leaders had expected and gloomy news for the city’s budget writers (who have to worry about the tax base) and elected officials (who have to worry about who will bear the political brunt of redistricting).

The decline among blacks may be explained in part by migration to the suburbs, the demolition of thousands of high-rise public housing units and a broader population shift to the South.

“Chicago was probably among the pre-eminent destinations of the Great Migration, and this marks the end of an era in some ways,” said William H. Frey, a demographer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

According to Mr. Frey’s analysis of the new census data, blacks still make up roughly a third of Chicago’s population (with whites representing around another third, and fast-growing segments of Hispanics and Asians a little more than a third), but that is smaller than in the past.

“That old image of being a white-black city is changing,” Mr. Frey said. “It means that the city itself will need to pivot from those old white-black issues and stereotypes to something that is really new.”

Even as the city shrank, a ring of suburbs along its fringes expanded rapidly. In fact, two of those counties — Will and Kendall — will probably rank among the fastest-growing counties in the nation over the last decade, said Kenneth M. Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire.

Illinois grew, too, but not at the pace of some states in the Sun Belt and elsewhere. Because of Illinois’s slow growth (to about 12.8 million people from about 12.4 million in 2000), the state will lose a seat in Congress, one in a string of such losses for Illinois in recent decades.

Some leaders in Springfield, the capital, were said to be studying the details of the census findings this week. The census results are crucial because they will be used to help determine the boundaries of Congressional and state legislative seats for the coming decade. Politics, of course, will also play a role.

Some Republicans were already complaining on Tuesday that Democrats, who control the legislature and the governor’s office, would surely try to force a Republican to be the one to lose a House seat on any new map.