The City of Big Shoulders has always been a melting pot — but new U.S. Census data suggest it’s gaining in diversity.
Despite national headlines about political corruption and street violence, Chicago saw its population grow by 2% over the past decade, allowing it to hold onto its title as the third-largest city in the United States.
Of the more than 50,000 residents added over the past decade to the city’s total population, most are Latino and Asian.
The Latino population grew by more than 40,000 people — about 5% — in the past 10 years, and the Asian population grew by almost 45,000, a 31% increase.
That helped offset the continued loss of Chicago’s Black population, which dwindled by almost 85,000 people during that time — a nearly 10% drop.
It’s far from a full-fledged comeback. Even though the city added more than 50,000 residents since 2010, it still has nearly 150,000 fewer people than 20 years ago, a decline of about 5.1 %.
Those are some of the highlights of data released Thursday by the Census Bureau.
Despite Chicago’s gains, Illinois lost population from 2010 to 2020, according to the data, mostly in the southern and western part of the state.
For the first time, Latinos surpassed Blacks as the largest racial or ethnic group in Chicago, Cook County and in Illinois, the census data show.
“These changes reveal that the U.S. population is much more multiracial and more racially and ethnically diverse than what we measured in the past,” said the Census Bureau’s Nicholas Jones. “We are confident that the differences in overall racial distributions are largely due to improvements in the designs of the two separate questions for race data, collection and processing, as well as some demographic changes over the past 10 years.”
The figures come from the 2020 census data that counted the country’s entire population, and it will be used by officials to redraw legislative and congressional district maps across the country.
Overall, the city’s population grew nearly 2% from 2010 to 2020 — from 2.6 million residents to 2.7 million, according to data released from the 2020 census. That’s a change from the population decline the city had experienced from 2000 to 2010, when the city lost nearly 7% of its population.
In 2010, there were more than 778,000 Latinos living in Chicago — comprising nearly 29% of the city. Now, there are more than 819,000 Latinos in Chicago, making up nearly 30% of the city’s population.
The number of Asian residents in the city also increased from more than 144,000 in 2010 to more than 189,000 in 2020, according to an analysis of census data. Asians now make up nearly 7% of the city’s population.
But the number of Black residents in Chicago decreased 9.7% in the past decade, from more than 872,000 in 2010 to more than 787,000 in 2020, according to the census. Black residents now make up nearly 29% of the city’s population.
The number of white residents in Chicago grew slightly — by 1% — from more than 854,000 in 2010 to more than 863,000 in 2020. White residents make up 31% of the city’s population.
Sylvia Puente, president and chief executive officer of the Latino Policy Forum, said she hadn’t yet looked at the census data released Thursday in detail, but the figures aren’t “new news.”
“What it basically says is we have a city that’s a third Black, a third White, a third Latino and then five or seven percent of the Asian community,” Puente said. “The challenge is that population numbers don’t always translate into equity in the distribution of resources, equity in our office holders, equity in a variety of different ways.”
Chicago didn’t grow as much as other large American cities. Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, grew by nearly 10% from 2010 to 2020 and has a population of 2.3 million.
New York remains the largest American city, with 8.8 million residents, experiencing a population growth of nearly 8%. Los Angeles is second-largest, with 3.8 million residents and a growth of nearly 3% the past decade.
The growth in Chicago follows a national trend of more Americans living in metropolitan areas, said Marc Perry, a senior demographer with the Census Bureau. In 2000, 84% of the country’s population lived in metropolitan areas, but that number grew to 86% by 2020.
The changes in the city mirror changes in demographic changes in Cook County.
The Latino population grew by 11%, increasing from 1. 2 million in 2010 to 1.3 million in 2020, according to census data. Latinos now make up about 26% of the county’s population.
The number of Asian residents in Cook County increased by 28% in the last decade from more than 318,000 in 2010 to more than 408,000 in 2020, according to census data. Asians now make up about 8% of the county’s total population.
Although the county’s population increased in the last decade, it still lost Black residents and even more white residents.
Cook County lost about 80,000 Black residents in the past 10 years, a decrease of about 6%, according to an analysis of census data. In 2010, the county had 1.2 million Black residents compared to 1.1 million residents in 2020.
The number of white residents in Cook County also shrank by nearly 7%. In 2010, the county had 2.2 million white residents and it now has 2.1 million.
Since 2010, the number of Asian residents in Illinois increased by nearly 29%, from more than 580,000 in 2010 to more than 747,000 in 2020. Asians make up nearly 5% of the state’s population.
Latinos in Illinois increased by 15%, growing from 2 million in 2010 to 2.3. million in 2020. Latinos make up 18% of the state’s population.
The state experienced a 3% decrease in its Black population — or about 57,000 Black residents — in the last decade, according to the census. In 2010, the state had 1.8 million Black residents, and in 2020 it had 1.7 million. Black residents now make up nearly 14% of the state’s population.
The state also saw a decrease of about 9% of its white population. In 2010, it had 8.1 million white residents, and in 2020 it had 7.4 million. White residents now make up 58% of the state’s total population.
For Sylvia Puente, the president and CEO of the Latino Policy Forum, the question now is: as the city, state, region and nation become more diverse, how do policy makers, and the state’s residents, curb segregation?
Studies have shown that people of similar backgrounds congregate in communities, Puente said. And while there are benefits to living in ethnic enclaves, there are also drawbacks in terms of what it represents.
“If we want to be in a region that is not segregated, how do we, as we look at this population growth ... really try to ensure that our region is not segregated, so that children are getting exposed to each other in schools, to neighbors [and] neighbors don’t always necessarily look like them,” Puente said. “Really it’s just a way of cultivating diversity, and integration and understanding between all people in our state — between and among people in our state.”
Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.