Chicago suburbs largely go for Clinton

Bucking historical trends, all but McHenry County in the Chicago suburbs went for Hillary Clinton.

The Democratic Party of DuPage got a sudden influx of young foot soldiers, like organizer Alex Franklin, who campaigned for charismatic Democrat Bernie Sanders until the Vermont senator conceded to Clinton in July, then went to work for Clinton. Clinton won DuPage County by 14 percentage points on Tuesday.

“If you look at the holes right now, even where Democrats lost in DuPage there were absurdly high numbers, which are a direct result of the Sanders people and what we were doing out here,” said Franklin, of Glen Ellyn. He sees the merger of Clinton and Sanders supporters as the beginning of a beautiful friendship that will spill over into spring municipal elections…

This year, support for local candidates by minorities down ballot helped Clinton at the top of the ticket, experts said…

Shunning the New York billionaire might have cost Illinois Republicans down ballot, said Mark Fratella, a Trump delegate and Addison Township GOP organizer.

A variety of explanations. Yet, one is ignored here: the Chicago suburbs have experienced a lot of demographic change in recent decades: more non-white residents, more immigrants moving directly to the suburbs (rather than to neighborhoods of Chicago first), more lower and working-class residents. In other words, the images of Lake County and the North Shore or DuPage County as looking like Lake Forest, Highland Park, Hinsdale, Elmhurst, and Wheaton (all white and wealthy) simply do not hold.

A great graphic shows the change over time in recent elections:

Elections since 1960

The trends are clearly away from Republicans in the collar counties.

See earlier posts about presidential candidates fighting over the suburban vote here and here.

The results of primary voting in DuPage County

The Daily Herald has an analysis of primary voting for president by Chicago area county. Here are the results for DuPage County:

The heart of this traditional Republican stronghold is bright red, with the central areas of the county and south through much of Naperville full of precincts that turned out big for the GOP primary. The same goes for the southeastern part of the county, including Downers Grove,

Overall, more than 17,000 more Republicans than Democrats turned out in DuPage, bucking the statewide trend.

But there’s Democratic blue in the DuPage County part of Aurora, as well as in Addison Township. That kind of Democratic turnout could hint at why Obama was able to pull off wins in DuPage County in the last two presidential elections.

Two quick thoughts:

  1. Displaying the data in a map like this is very helpful as you can quickly see the different bases of support for the two political parties. Additionally, showing the size of the margin of victory for the leading party is much better than just showing who won.
  2. The voting patterns show some correlations with demographic patters: more Republican areas are whiter and wealthier while more Democratic areas are less wealthy and more diverse. Again, seeing this on a map helps make those connections – as long as you know a few things about the spatial dimensions of the county.

DuPage County one of the best counties for poor kids to move up

A recent study by two economists shows DuPage County is one of the best in United States for social mobility for those who start toward the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder:

On the other extreme, poor children raised in DuPage, Illinois, have the best shot at climbing the economic ladder. The Chicago suburb is home to several large corporations, including McDonald’s and Ace Hardware, and is one of the nation’s wealthiest counties. Children from poor families in DuPage grow up to earn 15%, or $3,900, more than the national average by the time they are 26.

To conduct the study, Professors Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren looked at tax records for more than 5 million children whose families moved from one county to another between 1996 and 2012. Their analysis showed that where children are raised does have an impact on their chances of moving up economically. In addition, the younger a child is when he or she moves to a neighborhood with more opportunity, the greater the income boost. Neighborhoods matter more for boys than for girls.

Chetty and Hendren did not say why neighborhoods have such an impact on children’s success. But it did find that counties with higher rates of upward mobility have five things in common: less segregation by race and income, lower levels of income inequality, better schools, lower crime rates and more two-parent households.

The duo, along with Harvard Professor Lawrence Katz, also released Monday a second study that examined the impact of a federal program from the mid-1990s to move low-income families to better neighborhoods. It found that children who relocated when they were younger than 13 made 31% more, on average, than their peers whose families were not given vouchers to move. The relocated children were also more likely to attend college and less likely to be single parents.

DuPage County is not the most diverse place  nor is the most integrated but it is pretty wealthy, has a number of good school districts, and has lots of jobs (across a range of sectors). It also has a reputation of being quite conservative and wasn’t that open to non-whites in the decades after World War II. Yet, I don’t find it too surprising that it would be a good place for social mobility though I imagine this might differ quite a bit across communities within the county.

The second study mentioned above looks at the Moving To Opportunity program which didn’t have immediate influence for adults who move but may just have good long-term impacts for kids. Read more about the latest findings here.

Are Forest Preserves really about maintaining property values and quality of life, not protecting nature?

Each day on the way to and from work I drive past multiple Forest Preserve properties. They are generally green and open, providing a relaxing scene under the rising sun or after a long day. Yet, how much are they really about preserving or protecting nature as opposed to improving the quality of life of suburbanites? Are these two goals antithetical to each other?

The DuPage County Forest Preserve – alongside others in the Chicago metropolitan region – has been aggressive over the decades in purchasing land. The pace of acquisition picked up after World War II in the era of mass suburbanization where development eventually spread throughout all of Cook, DuPage, and Lake County. See an animation here of the land acquired by the DuPage County Forest Preserve since 1920.

The mission of the organization is stated here:

As mandated by the Illinois Downstate Forest Preserve Act, our mission is “to acquire and hold lands containing forests, prairies, wetlands, and associated plant communities or lands capable of being restored to such natural conditions for the purpose of protecting and preserving the flora, fauna and scenic beauty for the education, pleasure and recreation of its citizens.”

The mission mentions both nature and citizens. But, one way to look at the acquisitions is that they enhance the quality of life of wealthier residents by providing green and/or open space that will not be developed, offering recreational opportunities, and raising property values for nearby housing and not just for those that border the properties but for numerous developments who don’t have to contend with more nearby developments. Of course, forest preserves and parks can be used by residents of all class backgrounds. Yet, taking away all of the land from possible development means that affordable housing – already limited in wealthier places like DuPage County – may be even less possible. Property values are always lurking in the background of development decisions in the suburbs and I suspect it is relevant here.

Additionally, “protecting and preserving” nature is a tricky business. It is not exactly in a “natural state” as human beings have been in the area for at least hundreds of years going back to the first white settlers in the 1830s and Native American groups as least a few decades before that. These Forest Preserves present a particular kind of nature, one that this is never too far from busy roads, housing developments, tricky water run-off situations, and pollution. This is made more clear in the term sometimes used of “open space” where concerned suburbanites want empty land.

In the end, do suburbanites really desire Forest Preserves for the mediated nature they provide or the enhanced quality of life they bring? The answer might be both but we rarely discuss the implications of the second reason.

Anachronistic county fair in the midst of urbanized DuPage County?

The DuPage County Fair starts today and offers typical county fair activities:

For five days every July, DuPage County residents get a chance to step into a world dominated by monster trucks, bucking broncos and guys who like to smash their cars into other guys who like to smash their cars…

In addition to the animal exhibits, the carnival rides, the vendors and all sorts of food, this year’s fair offers shows each day, some of which require extra fees. A quick look at some of the best:

• Monster Truck shows at 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday; free with admission;

• Michael Lynch from TV’s “The Voice” at 8 p.m. Thursday; free with admission;

• Rodeo at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Saturday; $8 admission;

• Demolition Derby at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday; $8 admission.

DuPage County does have roots in farming and country living. First settled in the 1830s, the county was relatively unpopulated, the city of Chicago didn’t have that many people, and the railroad didn’t come until the late 1840s. But, much of the rural land disappeared after World War II as the population jumped from over 154,000 in 1950 to over 930,000 today. While the DuPage County Forest Preserve has been active in these decades acquiring land, much of this is green space, not agricultural land.

At the least, the DuPage County Fair reminds residents of the county’s roots even if the county now revolves more around white-collar businesses.

Visualizing the migration flows in and out of DuPage County

The US Census recently released data on county-by-county migration flows. The tables that can be downloaded are huge but here is a look at the flows in and out of DuPage County:

DuPageCountyMigrationFlows

Looks like a lot of movement to (and some from) warmer locales – southern California, Arizona, Florida – and lots of movement in the Midwest in an area roughly bounded by St. Louis, Detroit, and Minneapolis. You can also look at the migrations by education or income level.

Very cool all around. There is a lot of data to crunch here and these visualizations help make sense of a lot of data. At the same time, these aren’t necessarily huge movements of people. Take Harris County, home to Houston (4th largest city in the United States): over this five year span, there was a +88 flow from Harris to DuPage County.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra seeking DuPage County outdoor venue

The CSO wants a permanent outdoor site in DuPage County but is having a hard time securing one of the four possible locations:

But two of those sites are on land owned by the DuPage Forest Preserve District and that will pose legal problems for those hoping to build an outdoor concert venue here.The district’s attorney, Jim Knippen, has researched the question and determined the forest preserve commission doesn’t have the legal authority to lease its land to a private entity for a private purpose. If commissioners want to pursue such an agreement, Knippen said, they will have to pursue changes to state law…

Pierotti said he met several months ago with representatives from the CSO and Choose DuPage, the county’s public-private economic development group. He then assigned forest preserve Commissioner Tim Whelan to participate in the discussions because the Danada Forest Preserve was the first district-owned site the CSO considered. Danada is located in Wheaton, which is part of the area Whelan represents…

During subsequent meetings, other district-owned sites were examined, including Hidden Lake near Downers Grove and St. James Farm near Warrenville.

I would guess this deal gets done, even if it takes some time to go through the state and get an exemption. While the Forest Preserve might be about conserving open land, an economic opportunity like this would be too hard for everyone to pass up. DuPage County, the most populous collar county and home to lots of jobs, would love to have such a permanent cultural presence. The CSO would love to have easier access to wealthier people in DuPage County. I imagine there would be some spillover sales tax dollars for nearby restaurants and stores. Additionally, the DuPage County Forest Preserve could probably easily spare the at least 40 acres required as the Forest Preserve was quite aggressive after World War II in securing land before the county was completely suburbanized.

One note: the three Forest Preserve sites mention in this article are all within a ten minute drive of I-88, providing easy highway access. The Danada site which appears to be in the running is a relatively undeveloped area between Wheaton and Naperville that could end up being quite scenic as well as have easy access to some major roads (I-88, Butterfield Road, Naperville Road).