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Neighborhoods and Community Areas and Wards? Oh My! | Sidetracks | Chicago by 'L'

Neighborhoods and Community Areas and Wards? Oh My!

Chicago is sometimes called a “city of neighborhoods.” But here’s the thing: neighborhoods aren’t an official designation by the City of Chicago.

There are three ways that the city defines areas within its boundaries: wards, community areas, and neighborhoods.

Chicago is broken up into wards that define the voting districts for 50 City Council seats. Wards can change after a census and as a result of political gerrymandering.

The term “community areas” was created by a group of demographers at the University of Chicago in the 1920s. They were trying to track certain statistics, such as income and crime. These boundaries haven’t changed since they were created. There are 77 community areas.

Neighborhoods, however, are how most Chicagoans refer to where they live. But the delineation of these neighborhood boundaries are fluid and not officially designated; one person might define their neighborhood differently than their neighbor. There are some rather large neighborhoods, such as Wicker Park, Bronzeville, and Chinatown, that aren’t official community areas.