Austin’s population has dropped by more than 14,000 residents, down to approximately 103,004 from more than 117,000 in 2000, according to newly released Census data.

Austin remains Chicago’s largest community area with a population of more than 100,000 residents – the only one among the city’s 77 communities with 100,000-plus residents – but that mark is not by much. Lakeview on the city’s North Side is the next most populated area with just over 99,500 residents. Its population increased by about 5,000 residents from the 2000 Census count.

Other West Side neighborhoods saw their numbers either jump or decline. Neighboring North Lawndale saw its population drop by about 5,000, from roughly 41,000 residents in 2000 to about 36,000 now. North Lawndale’s population has steadily declined since the 1970s. East Garfield Park saw a slight increase of about 34 residents over the last decade – to nearly 21,000 residents – according to the data. West Garfield Park, however, saw a steep decline, from about 23,000 residents to 19,000 from ’00 to 2010.

Another huge drop was in South Lawndale – about 91,000 residents in 2000 to a population of roughly 77,000.

Overall, the city’s black population fell by 11 percent, according to the Chicago News Cooperative, a nonprofit city news website. That drop, the site notes, is across the West and South sides.

Population drop or low-response rate?

The two areas have experienced a dramatic shift in its black population in the last decade. Part of that likely stems from the demolition of public high rises – Cabrini Green on the North Side, the Robert Taylor Homes on the South Side and the Jane Addams Homes on the Near West, to name a few – with many residents dispersed to the suburbs.

Several West Side areas, though, had a low response rate in the 2000 Census, by more than 50 percent, which caused the Federal Bureau to do a massive campaign last year to get people to fill out and return their Census forms. Austin, West and East Garfield Park, North Lawndale, Near West Side and most of Humboldt Park all had a 50 percent non-response rate.

The “Be Counted” campaign also tried to educate residents on the impact to communities by not returning forms, namely the loss of federal funds due to dwindling populations. Illinois also lost one seat in the U.S. Congress due to a slight drop in overall population.

Austin Weekly News will have additional coverage of the Census data in upcoming issues.

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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