Insight: Class and Education: Chicago and Dallas

This Insight is the third in the Martin Prosperity Institute’s continuing Geography of Class and Education Insight series, which depicts the occupational class and human capital divide within cities in the U.S. The series examines census tract results within metros, in order to present the relationships and differences between the educational attainment and employment of residents within metro areas. The last Insight in this series compared the two largest metros in the US — New York and Los Angeles — with this week’s focus on Chicago and Dallas. The purpose of this study is to try to better understand the relationships between geography and a host of economic indicators such as occupation and education.

Exhibit 1: Chicago – Share of population 25+ with a BA or above (click for full-screen map)

Exhibit 1 presents our results for the metropolitan Chicago area. Home to more than 1.4 million Creative Class (CC) employees, the Chicago metro is known for being one of the creative centres within the U.S. As in New York and Los Angeles, there is an apparent divide within each city. Despite Chicago’s relatively high CC and human capital share, we found that within the 10 most educated tracts, the share of residents holding a BA or above was from 88%-95%, while in the 10 least educated tracts, only 0%-2.9% of residents held a BA or above. This is partially due to the education gap between the Service Class (SC) and CC in Chicago, as the degree average for all CC employees was found to be 57.9%, while the SC average is 22.8%, which is a greater gap than found in New York. The most educated census tracts in Chicago are located within the downtown core and in the area to its north around Lincoln Park. These highly educated, primarily CC tracts continue north of the city, along one of the main transit lines extending to Evanston and Skokie. The tracts with the highest degree shares also extend beyond the city borders; creating a ring of darker, more educated tracts in the suburbs. The well documented socio-economically disadvantaged south-side of Chicago is presented in this map by a combination of primarily SC and Working Class (WC) tracts with extremely low degree shares. The negative implications of deindustrialization are also present in Exhibit 1, as the industrial city of Gary, Indiana is shown as an extremely uneducated city, with almost no CC presence.

Generally, in Chicago the most educated tracts cluster and clump together, despite the dominant occupational class as seen in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. A slightly different pattern is displayed within a few of Chicago’s neighbourhoods, where smaller extremely educated tracts are surrounded by some of the least educated and most economically disadvantaged communities. This is illustrated by looking at the East and West Garfield Park communities, which have been identified by the Chicago Tribune as two of the most violent and poorest communities. These communities are home to degree shares as low as 3%, and are primarily dominated by SC or WC occupations. Despite this, a few blocks west just outside the City of Chicago boarder lies the Oak Park community in which the residents have extremely high degree shares (up to 82%), and are primarily within CC occupations The following link uses Google Hyperlapse to display how the neighbourhood changes drastically within a short distance as abandoned buildings and derelict roadways change to expensive housing and well maintained infrastructure with trees, new medians and streetlights. This pattern is also seen in the south side of Chicago where the highly educated tracts located on and around the University of Chicago campus are surrounded by some of the least educated tracts within the Englewood community. While other cities in this series have presented the great geographical divide between the extremely educated and extremely uneducated, the geographic proximity between the two groups has not been as close as some of these Chicago areas.

Exhibit 2: Dallas — Share of population 25+ with a BA or above (click for full-screen map)

The Dallas metro area’s class and education map is presented next in Exhibit 2. At first glance, what stands out the most is the relatively uneducated Dallas core. Similarly to Chicago, the northern part of the city is highly educated and primarily CC, but after that, the most educated communities are spread out in northern transit deserts located outside of the city boundaries. Many of the most educated tracts in Dallas are geographically quite large and in some cases, located in communities around the metro’s suburban airport. When looking at the City of Dallas, many of the communities (except for a small northern strip) are very uneducated and the majority of residents are employed in either WC or SC occupations. In Dallas there is a clear urban-suburban divide between educated and uneducated residents.

Comparatively, when looking at the maps presented in this Insight, a few notable differences arise. First, despite a very similar overall CC percentage for the total metro (Chicago: 35%, Dallas: 34%), Chicago is a more educated city (population with a BA and above: Chicago; 33%, Dallas; 30%) than Dallas, as the most educated tracts despite occupation, are more educated in Chicago. Despite this, Dallas holds a higher Creativity Index as outlined in Rise Revisited than Chicago. Another main different between the two are the pockets of higher educated tracts in pockets within Chicago as Dallas’ educated population is fairly absent within city boundaries. Similarly though, both cities have numerous tracts within their cores that are primarily WC and very uneducated. These tracts are usually surrounded by lesser educated primarily SC tracts. Unlike in Chicago though, where many of the lesser educated WC tracts are not near any primarily CC tracts, in Dallas it seems as if both highly educated and less educated CC tracts are often located in a close proximity to some of the WC areas.

This insight has presented the class and education results for two slightly smaller metros with higher working class concentrations. Despite this, there are many similarities between the cities we have examined so far. It seems as though highly educated residents clump together in geographical locations that are often distant from the uneducated areas. When looking at Dallas and Chicago, there is definitely an urban suburban divide as for the most part within the city limits, the population is relatively uneducated. Interestingly, in Chicago and Dallas certain highly educated CC pockets were found in a close proximity to primarily SC or WC tracts that have very low degree shares. This could present a unique opportunity for these cities, as the close proximity of neighbourhoods with different social characteristics could allow for co-mingling in which the socially disadvantaged members are provided with greater social mobility.

Download this Insight (PDF)

The Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto‘s Rotman School of Management is the world’s leading think-tank on the role of sub-national factors — location, place and city-regions — in global economic prosperity. We take an integrated view of prosperity, looking beyond economic measures to include the importance of quality of place and the development of people’s creative potential.