Volunteering has declined in Chicago from 2009 to 2019, according to data from the U.S. census. However, a team of researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago says that’s not the full picture.
New research says previously collected data doesn’t include the wide range of community organizing in the city, oftentimes leaving out the work of Black, Latino and working-class people. Informal support networks or public meeting attendance wouldn’t be included in those surveys.
“These types of activities aren’t included,” said Chris Poulos, a postdoctoral research associate with the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy at the University of Illinois Chicago and one of the lead authors of the study. “If you include those in a measurement of volunteering, a lot of the racial disparities shrink considerably or even reverse.”
For example, the racial gaps in volunteering rates would change if the U.S. Census Current Population Survey considered attending public meetings in their data. The White-Black gap would shrink from 11.9% to 2.6%. The White-Latino gap would reverse from 12.3% to a negative 1.6%.
Kennedy Bartley, senior legislative director with United Working Families, pointed to community organizing work like coming to City Council for public comment or the successful effort from young Black and Latino people to vote out former Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez over her handling of Laquan McDonald’s case.
“I see when working in the 20th Ward, a predominately Black and Latinx region in the city of Chicago—I’m seeing all the Black and Latinx organizers getting their neighbors to take charge of things happening in their communities,” Bartley said.