University of Illinois at Chicago

North Lawndale


North Lawndale is located on the West Side of Chicago and is one of the city's 77 community areas. The boundaries are Western Avenue (east), Cermak Road (south), Cicero Avenue (west), and the Eisenhower Expressway (north). Like many neighborhood's on Chicago's West Side, North Lawndale grew steadily through the mid-20th century, only to be ravaged by riots and the evacuation of major industry. There have been a few signs of revitalization in North Lawndale recently, including new retail centers, housing development and a stabilizing population.

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In the year 2000, the U.S. Census reported North Lawndale's population to be 41,768, of which 93.8% were African-American and 4.54% were Hispanic. Similar to the Austin community, North Lawndale grew intensely in the early 20th century. Russian and Eastern European Jews dominated the neighborhood from 1900 to 1950. Unfortunately, also like Austin, North Lawndale was hit by a series of economic and social disasters during the 1960s and 70s. "Blockbusting," riots and the exodus of major industries caused North Lawndale's population and economic stability to plummet.

According to the Steans Family Foundation, the median household income in North Lawndale was $18,342 and the unemployment rate was 13.5% in 2000. According to the Chicago Department of Public Health, 45.2% of North Lawndale's population lived below the poverty line in 2000. North Lawndale residents are also more likely to smoke, binge drink, be obese, not exercise and lack health care compared to the average Chicago resident. While major statistics regarding maternal and child health are worse in North Lawndale than the city average, noticeable improvements have been made in the percentages of teen births and mothers lacking prenatal care.

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According to the 2000 U.S. Census, North Lawndale had 14,620 housing units, a decrease of 6.8 percent from the 1990 census. The majority of the housing consists of greystone and brick buildings, so much so that North Lawndale has the greatest concentration of greystones in the city, enough to make the City of Chicago enact The Historic Greystone Initiative. According to the Steans Family Foundation, North Lawndale housing units fall into the following categories: 34% are 2-flats, 30% are 3 or 4-flats, 15% are 5-9-unit buildings and 21% is miscellaneous housing. Other relevant North Lawndale housing facts include:

* 43% of housing constructed before 1939
* 74% renter-occupied; 26% owner-occupied
* 950-1000 vacant city-owned lots
* 15% of housing units are vacant
* Median rent as % of income = 33% (2nd highest in 77 Chicago community areas)

For more information regarding North Lawndale, visit the Steans Family Foundation website.

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Commerce & Industry

Author Jonathan Kozol devoted one of the chapters of Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools to North Lawndale. One resident called the neighborhood "an industrial slum without the industry." At the time, it had "one bank, one supermarket, 48 state lottery agents...and 99 licensed bars." Following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, riots decimated businesses along Roosevelt Road, once one of the busiest shopping areas in the city. Around the same time, major employers moved out of North Lawndale: International Harvester (1969), Sears (1974-1987), Zenith and Sunbeam (1970s) and Western Electric (1980s). In 2003, Chicago Prospector listed 886 business establishments in North Lawndale employing 17,248 individuals, with machinery and equipment manufacturing as the largest employers.

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Education & Unemployment

North Lawndale suffers from a high unemployment rate (13%) and jobless rate among 20-24 year olds (59.4%). 34.6% of residents between 18 and 24 years of age lack a high school diploma or GED. Many unemployed residents lack the basic skills and qualifications to secure livable wage jobs, especially those  who attended Chicago public schools. Many North Lawndale residents are employed in repetitive, low-wage jobs that have almost no room for learning or growth and extremely limited earning potential.

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Social Organization

While North Lawndale is plagued by crime, vacant housing and unemployment, a strong web of social service organizations have affected positive changes in the area in recent years. After sponsoring a class of sixth graders in the neighborhood in 1986, the Steans Family created The Steans Family Foundation in North Lawndale that continues to contribute to the community today. The foundation's main focus areas are education, strengthening families and community development. Additionally, Homan Square has turned the former world headquarters of Sears, Roebuck and Co. into a hub for the North Lawndale community. The former site of abandoned buildings, manufacturing plants and parking lots now features a vibrant community center offering education, medical services and health and wellness opportunities for all North Lawndale residents. This site is also home to new housing developments and two new schools.

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UIC School of Public Health

UIC Office of Community Engagement And Neighborhood Health Partnerships | 828 South Wolcott Ave. Suite 231, Chicago, IL 60612

Ph:(312)996-4656 | Fax:(312)996-3848 | Email:

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