CHICAGO - More immigrants from around the world are moving directly into Chicago's northern suburbs, bypassing the city as the traditionally more affordable port of entry, according to researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Researchers in UIC's Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement found that among 16 northern suburbs since 2000, the immigrant population has grown by 19 percent, to 147,500. The largest groups came from Mexico (14 percent), Poland (10 percent), and India (9 percent). Others came from Korea, the Philippines, Iraq, Romania, China, Ukraine and Germany.
The native-born population among these suburbs has decreased by 3 percent since 2000 and now stands at 422,700, the report said.
Highwood, Lincolnwood, Morton Grove, Niles, and Skokie were most accessible to immigrants, having populations that were at least one third foreign-born. The populations of Deerfield, Wilmette and Winnetka were less than 10 percent foreign-born. Other suburbs studied were Des Plaines, Evanston, Glencoe, Glenview, Highland Park, Northbrook, Northfield, Park Ridge and Skokie.
"Immigrants move to Chicago's northern suburbs for the same reason native-born families do: to buy or rent a home in a community that offers good schools, quality neighborhoods, and access to employment," said Janet Smith, co-director of the center and associate professor of urban planning and policy.
Smith said the most common problems for immigrants were laws regarding housing occupancy, especially in rental properties; and the rising number of foreclosures.
"We may see a reversal of the trend toward greater diversity that some northern suburbs experienced in the last decade," she said.
The report states that as of 2006, nearly all immigrants of working age were employed, representing 5 percent of local employment but 8 percent of economic output. Their jobs were disproportionately tied to the housing industry, however, and they are now more vulnerable to foreclosure than most residents.
The researchers recommend that immigrants become more actively involved in local government, and that municipalities seek immigrants' involvement to prevent unintended discrimination. They encourage municipalities to review policies that affect housing availability, and to work across agencies to educate residents about cultural differences and practices.
The report, "Open to All? Different Cultures, Some Communities," was funded by the Chicago Community Trust for the Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs. It can be viewed HERE
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