Woodstock Institute has a proud history of standing up against financial injustice and supporting lower-wealth communities and marginalized consumers. The interactive map highlights some of the economic disparities in Illinois. For example, Cook County has one of the higher median incomes, but it also has one of the highest poverty levels at 9.6 percent. The map allows users to further track income inequality trends at the census tract level.
Woodstock published an extensive report on access to business credit in August. The report highlighted disparate access to small loans to businesses (loans under one million dollars) among Chicago business owners. Businesses that reside in higher-income or predominantly white census tracts were more likely to receive loans than businesses in low- to moderate-income or majority-minority census tracts. The financial disparity created from this unequal access to business credit is in the billions. Businesses can promote neighborhood growth and, as the interactive map indicates, there are several Chicagoland neighborhoods that could benefit from business growth and investment from banks.
The map also visualizes positive trends. Woodstock Institute’s first half of 2014 foreclosure factsheet revealed that foreclosure filings and auctions in the Chicagoland area were at their lowest level since before the recession. The map shows how the number of foreclosure filings and auctions in the Chicago region fluctuated between 2008 and 2013, showing which neighborhoods were hit the hardest, the ones that have recovered the most, and those that still face significant hurdles. We hope that this ability to track both positive and negative trends will give neighborhood stakeholders and policymakers the chance to see how their neighborhoods are faring compared to the rest of the state and to develop solutions that are targeted to their unique situations.
The data compendium, users will have access to a wide variety of datasets to inform their decision-making. These datasets allow users to track trends and make their own observations from the more than 100 datasets now available. Like the interactive map, the compendium empowers data-savvy users to perform their own analyses and draw their own conclusions. For example, users can analyze access to mortgage credit and the prevalence of zombie properties in certain communities. In addition, users can analyze the larger financial picture by exploring data such as the extent of retirement insecurity in Illinois and which financial institutions are the subject of the most CFPB complaints from consumers. Woodstock has used this data in the past to develop our own analyses, resulting in reports about consumer complaints, zombie properties, retirement insecurity, and access to mortgage credit.
Woodstock Institute hopes that communities will use these tools to gain an in-depth view of the financial trends in Illinois, understand where there are areas of need, and craft targeted solutions to their problems.