Families Leaving Cities: Urban Trends in Chicago and Elsewhere

A friend of mine hipped me to an insightful article on how families are migrating out of cities–including Chicago–at unusually high rates:

“Since the 1990s virtually all the gains made in the New York economy have accrued to the highest income earners. Overall, New York has the smallest share of middle-income families in the nation, according to a recent Brookings Institution study; its proportion of middle-income neighborhoods was smaller than any metropolitan area, except for Los Angeles.

Much the same pattern can be seen in what has become widely touted as America’s “model city,” President Obama’s adopted hometown of Chicago. The city has also experienced a rapid loss of its largely white middle class at a rate roughly 40 percent faster than the rest of the country. Although there has been a considerable gentrification in some pockets around Lake Michigan, Chicago remains America’s most segregated big city.

In contrast to the president’s well-integrated cadre of upper-class African Americans, Chicago’s black population remains among the poorest, and most isolated, of any ethnic population in America. And like other American cities, Chicago now has a growing glut of “luxury” condos, a pattern that became evident as early as 2006 and has now, as Chicago magazine put it, “stalled” as a result of a “perfect storm” of toughened mortgage standards, overbuilding, job losses, and rising crime.

Yet there could be some good from the current crisis. Considerable drops in urban rents and residential housing prices should ease the burdens on those who struggle with extremely high prices and taxes. Younger people, including families, may now be able to consider whether a home in Brooklyn, Chicago’s Wicker Park, or Los Angeles’ Studio City might now be affordable and desirable enough to eschew the move to the suburbs.”


This is clearly a major challenge for city churches, particularly as many, like Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church and Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church, seek to draw families to stay in the city.  The hard realities of city living make it challenging for families to do so.

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