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Explaining Economic Geography
Chicago Case Study

Patterns of density and distribution within an EMDC: Chicago


Patterns of density and distribution of population within an EMDC

For this section I have decided to focus my case study on Chicago. Chicago is perhaps the city which is most referred to in urban geography and when looking for a case study on population. It is the birthplace of human ecology (the study of people and places) and is best known, in academic terms, as the home of the Chicago School featuring geographers such as Wirth, Park and Burgess.

What are the patterns?

  • Chicago population density is well known as the concentric ring theory (of Burgess) was based on this City. Within this city population densities are high in the urban concentric rings and decrease with distance from the CBD. http://geogdata.csun.edu/chiatlas/chi16.GIF
  • Highly diversified ethnic population
  • There are 3,000,000 people in Chicago
  • There are large communities of Hispanic, Asian and Irish within the City.
  • Chicago is not synonymous with the concentric mode as Lake Michigan borders each zone of Chicagothe city is semi-circular.
  • Chicago is made up of a third black people (1.2 million)
  • Within Chicago, the city centre and inner concentric zones has seen a loss of white people who have subsequently emigrated to the outer suburbs of the city. (http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/su/maps/c89whitr.gif) There has been a decrease in white (14.1%) and Native American (-14.9%) communities and there out-migration is a consequence of increased Asian Pacific Islanders (26.96%), Hispanic (38.1%) and other races (20.9%). Click Here and Here for maps.

Distribution of Ethnic Group in Chicago

What are the causes of these patterns?

  • The causes of these patterns are largely economic.
  • Mass migration to the US from all over the world led to the multi-ethnic composition of Chicago.
  • Chicago is based on Lake Michigan and on the confluence of the Chicago River. Ideal for navigation and a fresh water supply. Indeed the Chicago River was used as a channel for ships from the Caribbean to New York in the mid 19th century.
  • Chicagos land value rocked after the emergence of a communication network. The Illinois and Michigan Canal was built that connected the Great Lakes and the Mississippi and, during the slave era, many black slaves settled here en-route to other places. Rail and road networks were also established.
  • Chicago had a flourishing meat industry and the advent of the refrigerated vehicle meant that the city could supply New York. Henry Ford also had a substantial car plant there.
  • Chicagos Post Office closed ad as such, shed many jobs forcing either the migration of workers or the relocation of Chicagoans to the inner city.

  • By 1970, Chicagos stock markets began to close and with it saw an out-migration of workers.
  • Factories and steel mills closed as companies moved to the suburbs or the south of the US where taxes and wages were lower.
  • The 1970s were a large transition period for Chicago. The creation of the worlds tallest building firstly attracted tourists and finance and commercial firms to the urban environment. Secondly, the creation of the downtown shopping mall further attracted investors to the city.
  • In 1982 Chicago elected USAs first black mayor after rigorous campaigning from prominent black figures. This acted as a mechanism to attracting other black people [and ethnic groups] to the city.

After a period of liberal conflict (between racial reformists and the white oppressive power), Chicago was deemed a liberal place to live and thus attracted the multi-ethnic immigration to the city. It is very important to acknowledge that the density and distribution of the population are as a result of human and physical factors. The physical factors are obvious in the sense that Chicago is located in a geographically appropriate location for settlements to become established here with the transport links and appropriate land for farming (especially pastoral). The human factors for the population distribution centre around Chicago's role in the slave trade and the consequential establishment of certain 'minority groups'. From this, the liberalisation of Chicago society made the city become a suitable cultural location for many social groups to settle here.