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Randy Leonard/MEDILL (data source: 2000 and 2010 census)

A steep decline in the city's black population points to movement to the suburbs.

Black Exodus: Dip in region’s African-American numbers mirrors general population decline

by Randy Leonard
March 10, 2011


Randy Leonard/MEDILL (data source: 2000 and 2010 census)

Census data shows that the region's black population has decreased about half as much as the city's. Click on image to enlarge.

While Chicago’s black population plunged dramatically in the last 10 years, the black population in Cook and the surrounding counties fell at half the pace.

African-Americans accounted for about 90 percent of Chicago’s 200,000-person population drop over the past 10 years, but the drop in the number of blacks in the six-county metropolitan region was on par with decline in the overall population.

The black population decline in the city “was so dramatic,” said community analyst Rob Paral.

The city’s black population dropped by 17 percent over the period, compared with an overall drop of 7 percent, based on analysis by Medill Reports of recently released census data. The rate of decline of the black population in Cook and the surrounding counties was 9 percent.

Some blamed the drop in the city on an error in the 2010 Census, but others disagree.

“I don’t believe it is due to an undercount,” Paral said, adding that the black population count is probably low, but likely as low this census as the last.

Paral, who advises large organizations on demographic issues, speculated that with a downturn in the labor market, blacks have left the state for jobs in the South. But while the city’s black population dropped by more than 180,000, the number in Illinois decreased by just 1 percent, or 23,000.

In Cook County and the surrounding counties, the population of blacks fell at the same rate as the decline in the general population.

Chicago’s black population dropped 4 percentage points, now accounting for 32 percent of the total. In the collar counties, the percentage of the population represented by blacks did not change by much more than a percentage point.

While DuPage’s overall population fell by a quarter, its black population edged up 1 percent to 27,854.

The black population in nearby Lake County, Ind. slid 29 percent to 87,304, greater than the decrease in any of the collar counties. The decline was similar to the drop in the total population of the county, which fell by a quarter in the past 10 years.