This report is presented by Northwestern University, Center for Healthcare Equity – Institute for Healthcare Studies, in collaboration with Chicago State University and The Chicago Department of Public Health. The report was made possible with support from the Aetna Foundation and Aetna, Inc.



The most recent estimates (2010) show that the city of Chicago has a population of 2,695,598 making it the largest in Illinois and the third largest in the United States.[1] The city’s population has fluctuated over time since 1900 with a steep increase between 1900 and 1960, followed by a decline over the next thirty years. The second increase took place between 1990 and 2000, after which the population remained fairly stable.

Among the top ten U.S. cities in 2010, Chicago was the only city to have experienced a decline over the past decade (–6.9% between 2000 and 2010).[2]

Race, Ethnicity, and Primary Language

The racial and ethnic composition of Chicago has become increasingly diverse over the last several decades (table 1). The 1950 census estimated that 86% of the population was White and 14% was Black.

In 2009, the American Community Survey (ACS) estimated that 65% of the population consisted of racial minorities—33% were Black, 27% were Hispanic/Latino, and 5% were Asian or Pacific Islander (fig. 2).

Foreign-born residents make up 21% of the population (fig. 3) and originate from a wide variety of countries, including Mexico, Poland, China and India. Of the residents who reported being born outside the United States, over half originated from Mexico and Poland (fig. 4).

The largest percentage of those who identified as Hispanic/Latino in 2009 noted their specific origin as Mexico (73%), followed by Puerto Rico (14%) and Central America (4%). Sixty-two percent of Central Americans noted their specific origin as Guatemala.

Chicago has the third largest number of Puerto Ricans in the continental United States after New York City and Philadelphia.[3] Division Street in Humboldt Park remains a primary port of entry for new Puerto Rican migrants.[4] Chicago also has the fourth largest number of Mexicans in the United States. Community areas with significant Mexican populations are located on the Chicago’s West Side, such as South Lawndale, Brighton Park, and Gage Park.

Chicago is a major center for Asian Americans: of the top 10 largest cities, Chicago ranks fifth in the number of Asians residents (fig. 5). Twenty-nine percent are Chinese, 18% Indian, 23% Filipino, and 8% Korean. The Devon Avenue corridor on the north side is one of the largest South Asian (Indian and Pakistani) neighborhoods/markets in North America.[5] Chicago is also an important locus of Palestinian (second largest number after New York) and Jordanian (third largest number after L.A.) immigrant communities in the United States.[6]

Although racially and ethnically diverse overall, Chicago’s community areas are often dominated by a single racial/ethnic group. Table 2 shows that in 68 of 77 community areas, 50% of the population identifies with a single racial/ethnic group. Twenty-one community areas are predominantly white, 29 are predominantly black, 17 are predominantly Hispanic/Latino, and one is predominantly Asian.

Chicago’s diverse population brings with it fluency in a variety of languages: over one-third of Chicago residents speak a language other than English at home (data not shown). Spanish is the most common language, followed by Polish. Of those who speak Spanish at home, almost 50% speak English less than very well. Sixty percent of Polish-speaking residents speak English less than very well (fig. 6).


Since 2000 there has been very little change in the overall distribution of Chicago’s population by age(fig. 7). Nearly 50% of Chicagoans are between the ages of 15 and 44. Between 2000 and 2010, the largest increase occurred among persons ages 45–64 (from 19% to 22%). The proportion of the population between ages 0–14 decreased slightly during this time period (22.2% to 19.2%).


In 2010, 35% of all households in Chicago were occupied by a single individual (fig. 8). Fifty-five percent of all households were family households (the census defines a family household as one in which there is at least one person living in the home who is related by marriage, blood, or adoption to the head of the household). Of all households, 32% were “married couple” families, an arrangement in which the householder was living with a spouse.

Housing in Chicago is nearly evenly distributed between rental and owner-occupied units. This contrasts with the the rest of the state, in which the vast majority of housing units are owner-occupied (fig. 9).