Second City or dead last? Five shocking facts about Chicago


Okay, so we’re not the Big Apple, and we don’t have the sun-tanned allure of L.A., but Chicago’s pretty great, right? Most of us, whether we were born here or have made it our home, would agree.

How justified is our city pride? Beyond the skyscrapers and sparkling store windows of Michigan Avenue, Chicago has a pretty seedy underbelly. We may not like to admit it. Heck, we may not even know. But when we look at the Second City in comparison to its rivals — the top 10 largest cities around the U.S.–, we might be a little astounded.

This week, we’ll be taking a look at five statistics that might surprise you about our town. And whether our new mayor elect intends to showcase the brightest our city has to offer to the world, he’ll still have to contend with our city’s ugly side.

Mayor Emanuel, this one’s for you.

Today’s statistic focuses on the u-word: unemployment. And as much as this economic crisis has increased the legions of unemployed people in America, Chicago sticks out like a sore thumb when it comes to minority unemployment.

Chew on this: Out of the largest U.S. cities, Chicago is number one when it comes to the unemployment rate for African Americans — 21.4 percent. That’s more than two and a half times the average for white people living in the same 10 cities.

Latinos in Chicago aren’t doing much better. Although Philadelphia ranks higher, Phoenix passes us just by one tenth of a percent. Latinos in Chicago are living with a 13.3 percent unemployment rate.

Our white unemployment rate is 7.8 percent. In that category, Chicago sits pretty squarely in the middle at number six among the ten cities for unemployment among white people — not the highest, but not the lowest either.

The stats on unemployment for minorities are blistering. No anti-poverty program, no social safety net seems to solve the serious problems that unemployment creates. Dozens of studies show links between theft, burglary, fraud and high rates of unemployment, especially when the job market is lousy for young men.

The real question is, why does Chicago top the list for minority unemployment? Why do New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas and San Jose have us beat?

And what can be done about it?

Photo credit: Bryce Edwards

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