Credit: Photo by Max Herman

It would be easy to look at the new Census data, released Thursday, and get lost in all the numbers. But each of those numbers represents a real person.

More than one in five Chicagoans (22 percent) lived below the poverty line in 2014, according to the data, collected from the American Community Survey. That is statistically unchanged from 2013.

In the black community, that number jumps to one in three (33 percent). Just over 10 percent of white Chicagoans are living in poverty and just under 24 percent of Latinos.

The federal poverty line is defined as $24,008 for a family with two adults and two children. The official national poverty rate comes from the Census’ Current Population Survey, released Wednesday, while the Chicago numbers come from the ACS.

African Americans are three times as likely as whites to be in deep poverty—below 50 percent of the federal poverty line. Roughly 18 percent of black Chicagoans live in deep poverty, compared with just 6 percent of white residents, according to the 2014 data. Those figures also didn’t budge from 2013.

One in three children in Chicago under the age of 18 live in poverty, according to the Census. That’s roughly 200,000 children.

Chicago’s overall poverty rate is almost 50 percent higher than the official national poverty rate, which was 14.8 percent in 2014.

There is some good news in the new Census data. The number of Chicagoans with health insurance rose, just as it did for Americans as a whole. About 86 percent of people in Chicago had health insurance in 2014, up from 80 percent in 2013.

In addition, the percentage of Chicagoans between the ages of 18 and 24 with at least a bachelor’s degree ticked up slightly, from 15.4 percent in 2013 to 17.6 percent in 2014.

That’s important because a college degree still makes a person much less likely to be poor and much more likely to have health insurance.

Even there, though, racial inequalities persist. Just under half of all white Chicagoans have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with fewer than one in five black Chicagoans.


Jonah is a reporter for The Chicago Reporter. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @jonahshai.

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1 Comment

  1. One in 3 blacks in Chicago live in poverty, maybe that’s true, maybe not. But 2 in 3 are not. That means 67% of African people in Chicago are not poor. So that means that we are only given one side of black life in Chicago. All of Black Chicago is not living in some charred out warzone full of gun violence, poverty, unemployment, and homicide. There are plenty of nice, clean, well kept, and middle class and affluent black neighborhoods in Chicago and across the country where they are successful black owned businesses, especially restaurants, beautiful homes and gardens and plenty of cool things to do. Plenty. In every city with major black populations such as Los Angeles, Oakland, Detroit, Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, D.C., Baltimore, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, and even Jacksonville, Florida there are lots of upscale and respectable black owned businesses to support, exciting things to see and do, and lots of cultural events going on too. African Americans and others of African descent in this country are such a diverse and colorful people, it’s amazing. We have lost of cultures within our race of people. And our experiences vary. We ain’t all living on the margins, we ain’t all hungry and impoverished, and our lives are shaped by much more than the fight against racism and white supremacy and injustice. We ain’t all going through that everyday. It exists and it’s real but to get all worked up over it, not necessary. Cause we got so much more going on that’s positive.

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