ChicagoNorth Side

How a Medill Reports article gets West Bucktown very wrong

by Joe Zekas on 10/12/11

One thing you should never do is accept at face value any report from a young journalist that analyzes data. Innumeracy and inapt comparisons seem to be pervasive features of any data-based reporting from a young journalist.

Consider, for example, a recent Medill Reports article on the “gentrification” of Chicago’s West Bucktown neighborhood.

You can’t call every socioeconomic change gentrification, according to some residents of West Bucktown. Instead you should say that changes in new U.S. Census data about race and poverty in West Bucktown’s Logan Square neighborhood are signs of diversification.

Logan Square Hispanic residents could have been displaced as the population decreased from 65.1 percent in 2000 to 51.2 percent from 2005-2009, according to Census information compiled by Rob Paral, a Chicago demographer.

But data does not reflect an increase of affluent residents. Low-income housing and rental increases could be reflected in Logan Square’s surge in percentage of people living in poverty, from 19.8 percent in 2000 to 34 percent from 2005-2009.

Nyden points to the national housing and economic crises of 2008 as the cause of data inconsistency.

The article consistently compares West Bucktown apples to Logan Square oranges. Take a closer look at the facts – and ignore the nonsensical last sentence of the quote.

Four Census tracts comprise the West Bucktown neighborhood – the area bounded by Western Ave (2400 W), North Ave (1600 N), California Ave (2800 W) and Armitage Ave (2000 N). Two of those census tracts – the ones that have experienced the most change over the past decade – are in the West Town community area, not in Logan Square.

Census Tract 2406, the area bounded by Western, North, Rockwell St (2600 W) and Bloomingdale Ave (1800 N), has seen a surge in new construction and rehab activity in the past 10 years.

Census data for Tract 2406 put the median annual household income at $29,821 in 2000. Eleven percent of households had an income over $100,000 but none had an income over $150,000. The population was 79.5% Hispanic.

Fast forward to the 2005-2009 American Community Survey dataset referenced by the reporter. The census tract had 29% of households with an income over $100K, and 13% of its households had an income exceeding $150K. The median household income increased to more than $83K. The Hispanic population fell to 49%.

Several months back I shot the above sponsored video in the area with Sam Banks of Sergio & Banks at 1701 N Artesian, a 5-bedroom, 3 ½ bath new construction home priced at $644,900.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

IrishPirate October 12, 2011 at 7:47 PM

Young journalists? Hell, old journalists are almost as frequently guilty of similar offenses to factology,spelin and gramer.

Once the census data came out I was greatly surprised at the changes in both Logan Square and “West Bucktown”. I thought it was more hype than reality. I was wrong.

I personally find the side by side version of this census map to be very useful.

http://www.urbanresearchmaps.org/comparinator/pluralitymap.htm

Reply

Adam_S October 13, 2011 at 10:04 AM

Come on, Joe. I was an English major in college, and have a MA in economics. I use both data, and words, regularly. This author made some geographic mistakes. Leave it at that. Way to demonize the young, old man.

Reply

Joe Zekas October 13, 2011 at 10:26 AM

Adam_S,

Geographic mistakes?

Norman Mailer once said that journalists were “forever munching nuances like peanuts.”

Reply

SheridanB October 14, 2011 at 11:41 AM

I don’t really like the term displaced in this context; people who leave a neighborhood aren’t necessarily displaced (as in pushed out), but could have taken the opportunity to move to an area they preferred.

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