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CHICAGO – A researcher says that despite racial segregation being on the decline in Chicago, the city still remains one of the most segregated big cities in America.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Chicago is the nation’s third-most segregated large city, behind only Milwaukee and New York City, even as African-Americans have opted to move to the suburbs and more whites and Latinos have moved into black communities.

The Tribune spoke with William Frey of the Brookings Institute, who analyzed recent census data and conducted research that said 76 percent of Chicago’s African-American population would have to move in order to achieve complete integration.

“In both slow-growing places like Chicago and fast-growing places like Atlanta, there is a decline of blacks in the city and an increase of blacks in the suburbs,” Frey told the Tribune. “What did the average neighborhood look like for a black person in 2014? It was a little less black. There were a few more whites there and a few more Hispanics.”

Frey’s research included the city of Chicago as well as some outlying suburbs, the Tribune reported.

According to Frey’s data, there is a steady decline in racial segregation. Most people living in Chicago reside in neighborhoods that have a little more diversity then they did a decade ago. The average black resident in Chicago now lives in a neighborhood that is 64 percent black, as opposed to 72 percent in 2000. The average white resident in the Chicago area now lives in a neighborhood that is 71.5 percent white. That figure was nearly 79 percent in 2000.

“The reason we pay so much attention to segregation is because it matters in terms of life outcomes,” Stephanie Schmitz Bechteler, the research and evaluation director at the Chicago Urban League, told the Tribune. “Where you live and where you grow up matters, and so does who you grow up around. It dictates where you go to school, the access you have to healthy business corridors, even your access to healthy food and job opportunities. All this is tied to address.”

She added, “It’s good to see a decrease in segregation, it’s a positive step forward. But only time will tell if the trend is long-term and whether it will break down the social and economic barriers that currently exist.”

The research comes as data show that African-Americans are shifting from the city to the suburbs, a move Dick Simpson, former alderman and a professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told the Tribune was due to the want for better housing and school communities.

Simpson said segregation in Chicago is only “slowly eroding.”

“The level of segregation in Chicago and the region is still scandalous,” he added.

According to the Tribune,  Frey’s research shows cities like Detroit, Kansas City, Mo., and Tampa, Fla., have shown “great strides in integrating.”

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