By Ted Slowik Daily Southtown

Newly released census data show residents of many wealthy, mostly white southwest suburbs remain largely segregated from people who live in poor, mostly Black south suburbs.

Data showed sharp contrasts in housing values, household incomes and education levels among people in mostly white and mostly Black communities.

Diversity matters in communities, schools and workplaces because better understanding of other cultures can help dispel negative stereotypes and personal biases about various groups.

“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity, there is beauty, and there is strength,” the late poet Maya Angelou said.

A good way to better understand others is to interact with people of other races and cultures during routine visits to grocery stores, parks and other places. Opportunities for multicultural interactions are greater in communities with more diversity.

Blue Island, Chicago Heights and Lansing were among the most diverse among the Southland’s 21 largest towns, census data showed.

Blue Island’s population in 2020 was 48.5% white, 31.7% Black and 47% Latino. Chicago Height’s population was 33.5% white, 39.1% Black and 38.7% Latino. Lansing’s was 48.3% white, 43.3% Black and 16.7% Latino.

Totals exceed 100% because some identify as having more than one race and ethnicity.

“People who identify their origin as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish may be of any race,” the Census Bureau said of its methodology about classifying race.

Census data showed many communities in eastern Will County and southwestern Cook County are almost exclusively white.

Southland communities with the highest percentages of white residents in 2020 were New Lenox (96.2%), Mokena (95.1%), Homer Glen (94%), Lockport (91.1%), Orland Park (88.2%), Tinley Park (86.9%) and (Frankfort (86%).

Among larger communities, towns with the highest percentages of Black residents were Dolton (92.5%), South Holland (83.4%), Matteson (80.9%), Calumet City (74.4%), Harvey (66.7%) and Park Forest (66.4%).

In the United States, the total population is 76.3% white, 13.4% Black, 18.5% Latino and 5.9% Asian.

There are more than 60 communities in the Southland. The 21 largest towns range in population from Orland Park (58,706) to Matteson (19,073).

In mostly white communities, median values of owner-occupied housing units were about triple values of homes in mostly Black communities, data showed.

Towns with highest median housing values were Frankfort ($384,900), Homer Glen ($330,600), Mokena ($319,200), New Lenox ($294,800), Orland Park ($287,700), Lockport ($242,600) and Tinley Park ($231,400).

Among the region’s 21 largest communities, towns with the lowest median housing values were Park Forest ($73,600), Harvey ($73,700), Dolton ($102,600), Chicago Heights ($105,900) and Calumet City ($106,000).

Owning a home is the best way to accumulate wealth and pass it down to future generations. For those who lease or rent a place to live, there are notable differences in monthly costs among Southland communities, data showed.

Towns with the most expensive monthly rents were Homer Glen ($1,567), South Holland ($1,500), Dolton ($1,287), Lockport ($1,241), Frankfort ($1,240), Orland Park ($1,233) and Matteson ($1,227).

Communities with the cheapest monthly rents were Blue Island ($867), Harvey ($946), Calumet City ($967), Chicago Heights ($940) and Lansing ($1,004).

Census data showed wide disparities in wealth and income among communities with higher percentages of white or Black populations. The 2021 poverty threshold for a family of four is an annual household income of $26,500. The nation’s poverty rate is 10.5%.

Of the 21 largest communities, the poverty rate was highest in Harvey, where 32.8% of all residents live in poverty. Others with high poverty rates were Chicago Heights (24.2%), Dolton (22.3%), Calumet City (18%), Blue Island (17.7%), Lansing (15.5%) and Park Forest (13.4%).

Towns with the lowest poverty rates were Mokena (2.8%), Frankfort (2.9%), New Lenox (3.2%), Homer Glen and Orland Park (both 4.3%) and Oak Forest (5.3%).

Household median income data showed disparities among communities. Towns with the highest median incomes were Frankfort ($139,145), New Lenox ($110,313), Mokena ($109,108), Homer Glen ($106,818), Lockport ($90,475) and Orland Park ($90,345).

Towns with the lowest median incomes were Harvey ($30,306), Dolton ($46,614), Blue Island ($48,398), Chicago Heights ($50,186), Park Forest ($53,938) and Lansing ($53,940).

Education was another indicator of differences. Nationwide, 88% of people 25 years or older are high school graduates and 32.1% have attained bachelor’s degrees or higher.

In Frankfort, 97.7% of residents 25 years or older have graduated high school and 58.6% have bachelor’s degrees. In Mokena, the rates are 96.8% for high school graduates and 47% for bachelor’s degrees. In Orland Park, rates are 93.6% and 44.4%.

Those rates contrast with towns like Harvey, where 78.4% of adults 25 or older have graduated high school but only 9.6% have earned bachelor’s degrees. In Blue Island, the rates are 78.4% for high school graduates and 14.7% for bachelor’s degrees. In Chicago Heights, 80.6% are high school graduates and 16.3% have attained bachelor’s degrees. In Dolton, 88.1% are high school graduates and 19.2% have bachelor’s degrees.

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Another data point that showed contrasts between the haves and the have-nots was the percentage of households with a broadband internet subscription. Nationwide, 82.7% of households have internet access, according to the Census Bureau.

The statistic was especially important during the pandemic as schools conducted remote learning and employers offered work from home options. People in households without reliable internet access were at a disadvantage.

Towns with higher rates of broadband internet access were Frankfort (94.4%), New Lenox (94.2%), Mokena (92.6%), Homer Glen (90.2%), Tinley Park (90.1%), Orland Park and Oak Forest, both 87.3%.

Towns with lower rates were Blue Island (68.4%), Chicago Heights (71.5%), Harvey 71.8%), Calumet City (78.2%), Oak Lawn (78.4%) and Dolton (80.1%).

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