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Is Chicago the Most Underrated City for Asian Americans?

t may be the nation's third largest city but to many AA Chicago is terra incognita. The first question it provokes is, Why would an Asian American want to live there? They are surprised to learn that, in fact, the greater Chicago area hosts the eighth largest Asian American population. Of the area's 8.4 million population, Asians comprise 5.4% or 450,000.
Most underrated AA city?

     Chinese began settling the area in 1870. Most were railroad workers at loose ends after the last stretch of tracks were laid on the Transcontinental Railroad. More began moving out to escape the extreme anti-Asian racism raging out of control on the west coast until the mid-1940s. Their first visible community was the area now known as South Chinatown on Chicago's South Side. At its height this original Chinatown, centered around Wentworth and Cermak, was lively enough to support 170 restaurants. Now, that number has shrunk to about 43, in part due to various redevelopment projects that cut the area down to less than a quarter its original area.
     The new wave of Asian immigrants that began arriving in the 60s and 70s has shifted the Asian action northward. A second Chinatown, populated mostly by Vietnamese Chinese, has grown up around North Broadway and Argyle Street. A few blocks to the west a Koreatown is emerging along Lawrence Avenue. Nearby Devon Avenue is home to thriving South Asian establishments. There's even a small Japanese enclave closer to downtown along Clark and Halstead, right alongside a budding Thai area. These ethnic enclaves give the Chicago area's Asian Americans a tangible connection to their heritages but they are home only to the newest of Asian immigrants. Most established AA have faded into suburbs like Skokie, Evanston and even Highland Park.

     Enough young Chicago-area AA professionals and students cherish their cultural ties to support the nation's only Asian American Jazz Festival, a popular annual event that draws healthy crowds. Other AA organizations include the local chapter of the National Association of Asian American Professionals, the Asian American Artists Collective, an AA Film Festival and various student groups based in local university campuses.
     Chicagoland AA have begun to recognize the need to organize if they are to avoid becoming political casualties and orphans as during the various redistricting battles of the early 90s. But the Asian population remains dispersed, lacking the concentrations needed to consolidate political power in the form of viable candidates. This lack of concentration is the factor most often cited to support the view that Asians remain irrelevancies in the Windy City's socioeconomic landscape.
     Is Chicago really a cultural wasteland suitable only for Asians indifferent to their heritages? Or is it just the most underappreciated city among AA?

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(Updated Tuesday, Apr 1, 2008, 06:09:27 PM)

Downtown Chicago as a place is pretty cool, but the demographics suck if youre asain. I've moved here from CA. but everything looks midwestern and farm-y. Everyone's white too. I'm always amazed and surprised when I see asians. But its ok if you want to experience white culture in the midwest.
   Thursday, August 29, 2002 at 14:45:49 (PDT)
If you're Asian, it would suck to live in Chicago. Perhaps I'm overly biased because I'm from the Bay Area, but over there, there's really nothing to do. Chinatown is like half a block long. Most of the places are ghetto with a lot of mean looking black thugs. Public transportation was scary, and I did encounter a lot of anti-Asian sentiment. Plus, the city just looks so old. Rent over there is cheap for a reason. Nobody wants to live there! I know I wouldn't visit again. 2 big Thumbs down.
   Wednesday, August 21, 2002 at 17:09:01 (PDT)
I am Asian American and live in Chicago. The second most important reason I am moving from this small town mentality "metropolis" is because of is anti-minority leanings. I am an extremelty proud Korean who now knows that you should not live in Chicago unless you are white. I have heard numerous racial epithets screamed my way in the supposedly rich educated part of Chicago. Do not even think of bringing up non white cultural issues in front of the white people here.
I have a few African American friends who also warn their non white friends about coming here.

When people talk about the stereotypes of the midwest I know they are true. Chicago is a farm town in a large city. For some outrageous reason, Chicago calls itself the Second City. Second to what? Minneapolis?
It is not a clean New York, and if this is the best of the midwest, I am scared.

If people do not believe me, read the or articles on the census information. One person said that you should have a blond baby to feel at home in Lincoln Park, and she is right. Don't commit BC (Being Colored) here in Chicago or you will regret it.

It is the funniest place I know. Never have I seen a city (and all its racist residents) that trys to be something it isn't with such fervor.
Thank you
Leaving Chicago
   Wednesday, August 21, 2002 at 11:24:56 (PDT)

I agree with you, Asian Biker. I just got back from Chicago, and it's a wonderful town! Everything that I like about NY, with little of what I didn't like about NY.
   Tuesday, July 30, 2002 at 07:38:26 (PDT)

The asian population is about 5.4% of about 8.4M people, or about 450,000 asians. I'm guessing 15% of the asian population in Chicagoland is Koreans, or about 70,000. Chicago was reported recently to have 400,000 high tech jobs, the most in the country. And Chicago probably has more going for it than any other cities in this country. Great job opportunities, relatively low cost of living, genuinely nice people, and has everything NYC has to offer.
Asian Biker
   Wednesday, July 24, 2002 at 13:08:00 (PDT)
Does anyone know how many Koreans live in the Chicago area? How many Asians generally?
   Tuesday, July 23, 2002 at 12:06:12 (PDT)
Is starting to become like California and New York in some ways. Alot of the suburbs are ethnically diverse with 20-25% of the population of Asian descent. Chicago is a booming city with all of the cultures and groups of the world represented. Asians have the choice of two Chinatowns, Little India (Devon Avenue), and a bunch of other ethnic neighborhoods. Move here and you will never leave.
Asian and in love with Chicago(Glendale Heights)
   Monday, July 15, 2002 at 14:16:59 (PDT)
Chicago Asian Capital of the Midwest,

I think you meant 51K per household income, not per capita income. Anyhow, Chicago is a great city with everything NYC has to offer yet it remains reasonably affordable. Average cost of a house is $169,000, that's about how much you pay for the basement in SF and NYC. Rent goes for about $850 a month for a one bedroom apartment, probably double that in SF and NYC.
Azz kicker
   Tuesday, June 11, 2002 at 12:48:26 (PDT)
A recent article has just stated that Chicago has a per capita income of 51000 a year versus 42000 a year in LA and New York. If a Asian wants to make money move to Chicago.We also have a poverty rate that is less than half that of La or New York. We are the prosperous coast baby. We are a second city to nobody. Asian people get real and discover the real world in Chicago. We also have the best mayor in the World. Our city is da bomb.
Chicagi Asian capital of the Midwest coast
   Saturday, June 08, 2002 at 09:16:08 (PDT)
We had a good turnout for the Asian Festival this past weekend. The lower Chinatown was packed with people and cars.
Chicago 4 Life
   Monday, May 20, 2002 at 12:52:28 (PDT)
Why is the city council in Arlington Heights shutting down the International Plaza mall? I think Asian people should skip Arlington Heights as a place to open up your business. The Chicago South Chinatown is having a ASian Festival this coming weekend.
Chicago 4 life
   Monday, May 13, 2002 at 09:57:10 (PDT)