Chicago's central core grew increasingly vibrant during the past decade, as young professionals filled new condominiums in the Loop and surrounding neighborhoods, taking advantage of trendy restaurants and nightspots.
But vast swaths of the city didn't fare as well. Fifty-seven of Chicago's 77 community areas lost population during the decade, according to 2010 U.S. census data released last week.
Particularly stunning was the flight from Englewood, an impoverished neighborhood on the South Side that lost more than 9,500 people — nearly a quarter of its residents — during the decade, according to the census. Nearly 10,000 more left neighboring West Englewood.
While the loss of that many residents was years in the making, the recession late in the decade compounded the neighborhoods' troubles. Late last week, Emanuel Ford, 25, an out-of-work diesel mechanic worked on a car at 60th and May streets on a block filled with boarded-up homes.
"Every house on the block had people living in them until two years ago," Ford said. "It took just two years for all this to happen."
After four decades of population decline, Chicago notched a modest gain in the 1990s, largely because of an influx of Hispanics.
According to the latest census, the city's Hispanic population is up only about 3 percent since 2000. But long-standing immigrant enclaves such as Little Village, Logan Square and Pilsen each lost between 8,000 and 12,000 people.
Chicago demographer Rob Paral attributed the neighborhood declines to a combination of aging families, poverty and a slowdown in immigration.
"Chicago still is a magnet," Paral said. "There are people running into the city who are highly educated, highly skilled and young. It's just not enough to offset some of the aging and the decline of some of the other neighborhoods."
The focus of growth in the city was around the Loop, where the transformation of warehouses into lofts drew thousands of new residents to the Near South Side, Near North Side and Near West Side. The Loop, a relatively new residential destination, saw a 76 percent increase in population, while the Near South Side's population more than doubled.
The city has invested heavily in the downtown area, with developments such as Millennium Park. But some planners warned that the benefits of growth in more affluent areas can't offset the steep declines in other parts of the city.
Chicago's overall loss of 200,000 people in a decade is "a very, very alarming sign," said Frank H. Beal, executive director of Metropolis 2020, a business-oriented regional planning group.
Struggling neighborhoods pocked by empty homes and vacant blocks affect the entire region's economic fabric, he said, pointing to cities such as Detroit and Cleveland that have had difficulty attracting reinvestment because of neighborhood blight.
"It affects whether businesses decide whether they're going to move to this area," Beal said.
Because of the population decline, Chicago could lose federal funding over the coming decade, exacting a cost on long-term community development projects, social services, public transportation and education, according to the city's budget department and economists.
According to the census, the city's black population went from just over 1 million in 2000 to 887,608 in 2010. The non-Hispanic white population dropped from 907,166 to 854,717, while Hispanics increased by about 25,000 to 778,862
Housing policy changes, primarily the demolition of thousands of public housing units throughout the city, contributed to the loss of population, according to demographers.
While collar counties continued to grow, the metropolitan area's population changes are not a simple matter of one-way migration from city neighborhoods to the suburbs, said Jim Lewis, a demographer and senior program officer at Chicago Community Trust.