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Population of Chicago

chicagoMany people refer to it as the Windy City (although locals don’t actually use this term at all). Older folks recognize Chicago as the “headquarters” of Oprah and the city where Michael Jordan once reigned. Politically-aware folks also know this city is where President Obama’s political career started. But one thing not many people know is that the population of Chicago is 2.7 million people, making it the most populous city in the whole Midwest.

And if you count the metropolitan area, the population of Chicago is actually 9.9 million people, making it one of the largest population in the US next to New York City and Los Angeles.

Population Facts

4The Chicago population grew exponentially over the years. It started with less than 200 folks when it was founded in 1833. By the first census in 1840, the population was greater than 4,000. By 1850 that figure was almost 30,000 and 40 years later in 1890 it reached more than a million people. By 1900, Chicago was the 5th largest city in the world.

It’s still a very young city, as it was incorporated only in 1837. It actually started out as a small trading outpost located at the mouth of the Chicago River. The city grew quickly in the decades that followed, only for the city to burn in the great Chicago fire that brought down 17,500 buildings and destroyed almost a full third of the city’s valuation. At the time of the Great Chicago Fire, there were already about 300 thousand people living here. Within 60 years, that number grew to more than 3 million.

So why are there so many people living in Chicago? In the years following the great fire, part of the reason was the employment opportunities, because the rebuilding process was underway. Famous architects came to the city in droves to leave their mark, and today the Chicago architectural legacy is undeniable. It was among the first cities in the world which established sky scrapers to address the need for more office space in a densely populated metropolis.

Because of the rebuilding process, immigrants from Europe came here in waves. So did African Americans, as their numbers doubled from 1910 to 1920, and then doubled again from 1920 to 1930. By this time, about two thirds of them lived in the South Side of Chicago, where the racial composition is 90% black. It became the largest urban African American community next to Harlem in New York City.

Here are a few facts about the racial composition in Chicago as of 2014:

  • About 45% of the population is white, and most of them are of Irish, Polish, German, and Italian descent. The percentage of non-Hispanic white people has decreased from 59% in 1970 to just 31.7% in 2014.
  • About a third of the people are African Americans. That makes them more populous than non-Hispanic white folks.
  • The Hispanic community also has a sizable presence in the city, as they comprise about 29% of the population. Most of them come from Mexico.
  • Quite a few Asians live here too, and they comprise about 5.5% of the population. That’s about 150,000 people, mainly of Chinese, Indian, and Filipino descent.

Chicago Economy


5Part of the reason why today people want to live here is because there’s money to be made. Chicago is a major business hub, with the 3rd largest gross metropolitan product in the US next to NYC and LA. Because of its diversification, it’s been rated as having the most balanced economy in the entire country. And it’s still growing, as the Chicago metropolitan area had the greatest number of new or expanded corporate facilities in the US for 2014.

Chicago is a leader in the finance sector, in science and engineering, manufacturing, printing, publishing, retail, and food processing. It also ranks 3rd behind Las Vegas and Orlando in the number of conventions it hosts every year. McCormick Place is the main convention center, and it is the largest convention center in the US and 3rd largest in the world.

The Chicago Food Scene

Since you’ve got so many cultures living side by side in Chicago, you inevitably get a very lively culinary scene in the city. There are a lot of good Mexican food, and lots of other culinary delights. While some wax rhapsodic about the hot dogs, here are some Chicago delicacies you may want to try:

  • Deep dish pizza. Ironically, most people in Chicago actually prefer the thin crust variety, which is square with sausage and cheese.
  • Hot dogs. There’s something called a hot dog tour in Chicago. Seriously. Supposedly, there are two rules about Chicago hot dogs: you always use poppy seed bun and you never use ketchup.
  • Jibarito sandwiches. Each place has its own ingredients, but it’s a sandwich using fried plantains instead of bread. It’s of Puerto Rican origin, and you can find many places on the West Side that offer it.

Also, just in case you’re in Chicago and you want some soda, go and ask for “pop”.

Chicago Sports

Chicago has its share of sports moments, and for most people in their 40’s the highlight was the Michael Jordan era, when the mighty Chicago Bulls ran the Triangle Offense and had a couple of three-peats in the 1990s. While Derek Rose shows some promise, his inability to avoid injury is rather disappointing.

But regardless of what sport you like, if there’s a professional league then Chicago has a team participating in it. There’s a team for the major sports such has baseball (Chicago has two teams which haven’t won a championship in a hundred years), football, and hockey. There are also teams for the minors in baseball, soccer, Arena Football, and the women’s NBA.

Chicago Music

Chicago is a great place for live music. There are many good places dedicated to jazz and the blues, both of which have roots in Chicago. House music was born here. Then of course you have your hip-hop joints as well as the bars with great rock bands. One 2007 report stated that it ranks 4th among cities with the number of performances and concerts.
It does not come as a surprise that the population of Chicago is so huge. It is, after all, a really a great place to live in.

One Comment

  • Bree  says:

    I like Chicago a lot! I like big cities by default. I am not sure I know what is the population of Chicago, but I feel myself very comfortable with a lot of people around, who actually do not know you and do not care where you go, why, how…I like this privacy of big cities) in small towns it is just impossible and you always have to talk, to explain, to excuse….