Ethnic groups in Chicago

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The mix of ethnic groups in Chicago has varied over the history of the city, resulting in a diverse community in the twenty-first century. The changes in the ethnicity of the population have reflected the history and mass migrations of the nineteenth and twentieth century in North America, as well as internal demographic changes. The groups have been important in the development of the city as well as players in occasional conflicts.

Twenty-first century[edit]

As of the 2010 census,[1] there were 2,695,598 people with 1,045,560 households residing within Chicago. More than half the population of the state of Illinois lives in the Chicago metropolitan area. Chicago is also one of the US's most densely populated major cities. The racial composition of the city was:

Chicago has a Hispanic or Latino population of 28.9%. (Its members may belong to any race; 21.4% Mexican, 3.8% Puerto Rican, 0.7% Guatemalan, 0.6% Ecuadorian, 0.3% Cuban, 0.3% Colombian, 0.2% Honduran, 0.2% Salvadoran, 0.2% Peruvian)[2] The Guatemalan, Colombian and Peruvian communities have grown substantially in the 2000s, and some estimates give higher percentages.

Ethnic groups[edit]

African Americans[edit]


Most Tanzanians who have arrived since 1986 have chosen to settle in Chicago. Many of them are students and professionals who came to the city to pursue an advanced degree or work for an employer that sponsored their entry into the United States. Some of the Tanzanians have returned to their home country a few years after arriving in the U. S.[3]

Religion plays an active role in the lives of many Tanzanian Americans in Chicago.[3]

Hispanic and Latino Americans[edit]


Puerto Ricans[edit]

White Americans[edit]

German Americans[edit]

Irish Americans[edit]

Italian Americans[edit]

Lithuanian Americans[edit]

Polish Americans[edit]

Welsh Americans[edit]


According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Chicago has 15,683 Assyrians. This is believed to be the largest Assyrian population in the United States.[4] The Assyrians in Chicago settled in Albany Park, Edgewater, Rogers Park, and Uptown. In the suburbs, Assyrians have settled Morton Grove, Niles, and Skokie.[5]

The first Assyrian church in Chicago opened in 1917 in the Near North Side.[6]

The Assyrian American Association was established in 1917. It is located at 1618 West Devon Avenue, two blocks east of the Assyrian Pentecostal Church.[7]

Other White ethnic groups[edit]

As of 2006 there are about 8,500 Arabs in the Chicago metropolitan area, with most of them being Palestinian. Chicago Lawn has one main area of Palestinian settlement,[7] and Albany Park has the other. In the latter, many are Christian. Several southwestern suburbs including Bridgeview, Hickory Hills, and Oak Lawn have Arab populations.[8] Many Arabs arrived to Chicago after Arab-Israeli wars.[7]

As of 2006 the Armenian population is located in the far northwest of Chicago and in the Chicago suburbs. Waukegan, Illinois has a significant Armenian population. For a period its mayor was Armenian.[7] The initial settlement of Armenians was in West Pullman in the Far South Side. In the early 1900s Armenians fleeing persecution from Turks arrived in Chicago. In the middle of the twentieth century some Armenians in Chicago favored Armenian independence and some favored the Soviet Union.[4] Additional Armenians arrived after Armenia's 1990 independence from Russia.[9] Most Chicago area Armenians are businesspeople. Irving wrote that "they dominate the imported rug market."[7]

In 2006 there were perhaps as many as 25,000 Chicago area Iranians, including about 6,000 in the Chicago city limits. Iranian ethnic groups represented include Persians, Kurds, Turks, Azeris, and Lurs. Many Iranians live in Uptown. Reza's, which Irving described as one of the most famous Iranian restaurants in Chicago, is in Uptown.[7] Some Iranians operate restaurants and small retail stores, some work in professions, and some work as taxi drivers. Religious groups represented include Muslims and Bahá'í. The Bahá'í temple is in Wilmette, Illinois.[7]

Many Syrians who moved to Chicago originally were street peddlers. As time passed, they opened linen, carpet, and other luxury good stores; wholesale stores; and dry goods retail stores. In 1893 Syrians who wished to sell products at the Columbian Exposition began arriving to Chicago. 30 Syrian families lived in Chicago at the time World War II started. After the Six Day War in 1967 additional Syrians moved to Chicago.[4]

Asian Americans[edit]

In 2011 Asians make up 12.7% of the population in the northwestern Chicago suburbs. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the 10 suburbs with the highest percentages of Asians were South Barrington, Oak Brook, Hoffman Estates, Glendale Heights, Schaumburg, Vernon Hills, Buffalo Grove, Hanover Park, Streamwood, and Naperville. As of 2011, in DuPage County, 10.1% of the population was Asian, and in Lake County 6.3% of the population was Asian.[10]


Main article: Chinese in Chicago


Main article: Japanese in Chicago

As of the 2000 U.S. Census, 5,500 people of Japanese descent live in the city of Chicago. As of that year 17,500 people of Japanese descent live in the Chicago metropolitan area suburbs such as Arlington Heights, Evanston, Hoffman Estates, Lincolnwood, and Skokie. Most Japanese within the City of Chicago live in lakefront areas in the North Side, including Edgewater, Lake View, Near North Side, Uptown, and West Ridge.[11]


Main article: Koreans in Chicago

As of the 2000 U.S. Census there were 45,000 South Korean-origin people in the metro area. As of 2006 the largest groups of Koreans are in Albany Park, North Park, West Ridge, and other communities near Albany Park. By that time many Koreans began moving to northern and northwestern Chicago suburbs, settling in Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Schaumburg, and Skokie.[6] In 2011 Chunho Park, a resident quoted in the Chicago Daily Herald stated that, as paraphrased by journalist Ashok Selvam, "Many Koreans are drawn to the area around Golf Road and Milwaukee Avenue" in the Niles area, in proximity to the Super H Mart.[10]


As of 2000 the Filipinos are the fourth-largest group immigrating to the Chicago area. As of that year there were a total of 81,000 Filipinos in Chicago metropolitan area, including about 29,000 Filipinos in the City of Chicago. The majority of Filipinos in the City of Chicago live in the North Side and in the Northwest Side. The neighborhoods with especially significant amounts include Edgewater, Lakeview, and Uptown to the north and Albany Park, Irving Park, Lincoln Square, and West Ridge to the northwest. Suburban cities with Filipinos included Glendale Heights, Morton Grove, North Chicago, Skokie, and Waukegan.[12]

As of 2000 most Filipinos work in the medical sector and are financially well off. Of the Asian groups, the Filipinos had the highest annual median household income, at $55,164, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. Filipinos are not as tightly clustered together as other Asian ethnic groups are. Many live in close proximity to hospitals or near Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) elevated lines.[12]

In the 1920s the first group of Filipinos arrived in Chicago. The first group of Filipinos had to work as laborers in hotels and restaurants, for the post office, and for Pullman's menial jobs due to discrimination. There were about 2,000 Filipinos in Chicago by 1930. After the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 passed, Filipino immigration increased.[12]

The Filipino-American Council of Chicago, founded in 1948, serves the community.[12]

Indians and Pakistanis[edit]

As of 2006 there are about 114,000 Indian-origin people in the Chicago metropolitan area and a population of Pakistan-origin people fewer than one-sixth of the Indian count; together they make up about 30% of the Asian Americans in the Chicago area, and it is the second largest combined population of Indians and Pakistanis in the U.S. after that of New York City.[13] As of 2006 the Indians are the third largest immigrant group settling in .[14]

The main Indopak business district is along Devon Avenue between Damen Avenue and California Avenue. There are also Indopak businesses in Chicago suburbs. In 2006 Cutler wrote that "Indians and Pakistanis are dispersed throughout the metropolitan area".[13] Chicago suburbs with significant populations of Indopak people are Des Plaines, Downers Grove, Glendale Heights, Hanover Park, Hoffman Estates, Mount Prospect, Naperville, Oak Brook, Palatine, Schaumburg, Skokie.[13]

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 increased settlements of Indians and Pakistanis. Many initial settlers were professionals who arrived in Uptown and later relocated to wealthy suburbs. As of 2006 many more recent immigrants, after arriving, start work as office workers, janitors, and taxicab drivers; they are from lower income backgrounds.[13]

Cutler wrote that the Indian and Pakistani groups "often live in close proximity and have had similar experiences, including some discrimination" but the two groups "generally keep separate".[15] Cutler wrote that in regards to the Indian and Pakistani groups "in Chicago their relations are more peaceful than those on the Indian subcontinent."[16] The Chicago metropolitan area has 70 non-Muslim Indian social groups. Older Indians participate in the regional linguistic-based groups, but younger people do not participate as often.[13] Both groups keep track of developments in South Asia and have concerns about the development of the youth in the United States.[16]

Indian-Americans are among the most economically successful recent immigrants to the Chicago area.[17] As of 2006 many Indians and Pakistanis operate Dunkin Donuts franchise locations.[13]

The Indians and Pakistanis have distinct religious, educational, and social facilities. Most Pakistani religious facilities are Muslim. Of the Indians, about 80% are Hindu, about 7% are Muslim, and about 5% are Sikh. Cities with Hindu temples include Aurora, Bartlett, and Lemont. The Lemont temple was dedicated in 1986 and as of 2006 the Bartlett temple is new.[14]


As of 2006 there were about 10,000 people of Thai origins in the north and northwest sides of Chicago and the suburbs in that direction. The most prominent group is in Bridgeview.[11]

The first Thais arrived in the 1950s. Many of them were university students.[11]

As of 2006 over half of the Thais in the Chicago area work in the medical sector.[11] Thai doctors and nurses came because in the United States there was a lack of health professionals. There are around 12 Thai groceries in the Chicago area as of 2006. At first produce was transported by aircraft from Bangkok since some Thais had difficulty in eating American food. By 2006 many kinds of Thai produce were now produced in the United States.[12]

There are five Thai Buddhist temples in the Chicago area. The largest is the Thai Buddhist Temple in Bridgeview. Three temples are in the southwest suburbs.[12]

By 2006 many Thai restaurants were established in Chicago. The largest concentrations were in the Near North Side and the Lakeview/Uptown/Edgewater areas.[12]

Other Asian groups[edit]

Of the Southeast Asians in Chicago, most of them are Vietnamese. Some of them are Laotians.[18] There is a primarily Vietnamese neighborhood near Argyle Street in Uptown.

As of 2006, several thousand Cambodians live in Chicago. Most of them are Buddhists and many had arrived in Chicago in 1979-1985 from rural areas after the Khmer Rouge killings. Many live in the same areas as Laotians and Vietnamese, while some who had gained economic status after arriving moved to the suburbs. The Cambodian Association is located in Uptown.[19]

As of 2006 there were fewer than 1,000 Indonesians in Chicago and its suburbs. As of that year the number of Indonesian restaurants was increasing.[8]

In December 1999, according to the Hmong National Development Inc., Chicago had about 500 Hmong people.[20]



  1. ^ American Community Survey: Chicago city. Retrieved March 6, 2011.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "Tanzanians", Encyclopedia of Chicago, authored by Tramayne M. Butler, 2005
  4. ^ a b c Cutler, p. 196.
  5. ^ Cutler, p. 193, 196.
  6. ^ a b Cutler, p. 193.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Cutler, p. 197.
  8. ^ a b Cutler, p. 198.
  9. ^ Cutler, p. 196-197.
  10. ^ a b Selvam, Ashok. "Asian population booming in suburbs." Chicago Daily Herald. March 6, 2011. Retrieved on February 24, 2014.
  11. ^ a b c d Cutler, p. 190.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Cutler, p. 191.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Cutler, p. 199.
  14. ^ a b Cutler, p. 201.
  15. ^ Cutler, p. 201-202.
  16. ^ a b Cutler, p. 202.
  17. ^ Cutler, p. 199, 201.
  18. ^ Cutler, p. 188.
  19. ^ Cutler, p. 189.
  20. ^ Kaiser, Robert L. "After 25 Years In U.s., Hmong Still Feel Isolated." Chicago Tribune. December 27, 1999. 2. Retrieved on April 14, 2012.