City of Chicago Neighborhood "Hardship Index"

I constructed this plot using data collected from the City of Chicago's online data portal, specifically one data file linking different socioeconomic attributes to each of the City's 77 neighborhoods. This data was last updated in 2014. Several different indicators are compiled into a "Hardship Index" from 1-100 for each neighborhood. This hardship index has been plotted on the Y axis with each neighborhood's respective per capita income on the X axis. Each point is then shaded according to the percent of households below the poverty line. The scatterplot emphasizes an obvious correlation (calculated as .85) between the first two variables.

The clear message displayed here is that residents of poorer communities are more likely to have more difficult lives. This statement leads us to ask exactly how poor is "poor"? The "Percent of households living below the poverty line" attribute here is pulled from the Federal Government's determined poverty line. At the time of last update for this dataset in 2014, the official poverty line for a household of two individuals was $15,730. For each additional person in a household $4060 is added to that figure. Therefore a household of three has an official poverty line of $19,790, $23,850 for a household of four, and so on. A per-capita poverty line therefore is $11,670. Just five of the 77 neighborhoods fall under that threshold. However, in 2014 the City of Chicago determined that 26 neighborhoods fell into the bracket of "High Economic Hardship". This "High Economic Hardship" therefore equates to a hardship index of 66 and above. 80% of these neighborhoods have per-capita income levels above the poverty line, yet they remain the most at-risk.

Of these 26 neighborhoods determined to be facing high economic hardship, the mean per capita income is $13,674. The rudimentary boxplot below can show these neighborhoods' relationship to the poverty line in red.
While income certainly plays a big part in economic hardship, I contend that the official definition of poverty may not be the most appropriate measure in this specific case. Here, an income closer to $20,000 would appear to do a better job identifying these areas of high economic hardship. Is this disparity due to the City's inherently higher than average cost of living? There are undeniably more factors at play here like elevated violent crime rates and underfunded public schools, and I hope to provide further analysis soon.

The code for the visuals and analysis was performed in R and Tableau. The first dashboard is actually an interactive display, but it is unfortunately not compatible with this webpage. I am happy to share the original file with anyone interested.


  1. wow - this is really fascinating! How do these neighborhoods get out of crisis? It seems to me very systemic - but what to do to help these people help themselves.


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