Professor Dan Silver writes in the Chicago Sun about Chicago's vibrant scenes

June 23, 2017 by Sherri Klassen

Professor Dan Silver recently co-authored a column in the Chicago Sun about the shift from neighbourhoods to "scenes" for understanding shifting dynamics in Chicago urban life.

Professor Silver is an Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of Toronto, with undergraduate responsibilities at the Scarborough campus. His research examines, among other things, the causes and consequences of urban scenes.

Professor Silver co-authored the column with Terry Clark of the University of Chicago and it appeared in June 10th's Chicago Sun. The article draws on research from Silver and Clark's recent book, Scenscapes: how qualities of place shape social life. We have provided an excerpt below and you can read the entire piece here.

Once a city of neighborhoods, Chicago’s now about making the scene

Columnists 06/10/2017, 06:49pm

Terry N. Clark and Daniel A. Silver

Critics of big cities found new fuel for their fire with the recent news about Chicago’s population decline. In a new census report, the city of Chicago’s population declined by 8,638 from 2015 to 2016. This followed a loss of 4,964 the year before.

First of all, these are miniscule changes for a city of 2.7 million residents. And a closer look reveals a more complex story: there are big differences across neighborhoods and subgroups. The city is attracting tens of thousands of affluent, professional young people, many of whom do not leave for the suburbs when they marry and have children.

Traditional terms like “middle class” or “working class” no longer tell the whole story. New types of jobs are growing in health care, law and other knowledge-based jobs. In a city where “who you know” could once lead to a cushy public sector job, “What you know” is now also a path to success. These new jobs require far fewer people — there are fewer assembly lines to staff or trucks to unload — so raw population is less important than attracting knowledge-based workers.

Another big change is that people often choose cities by considering lifestyle amenities together with the job. Indeed many people accept lower pay for more amenities. The most important industry in Chicago today is entertainment, broadly defined to include restaurants, museums, cuisine, sports, concerts, nightlife and the lakefront.

This is a big switch for the former “hog butcher of the world.” Today, instead of canned pigs, Chicago produces more art school graduates than any other city in the country. Many stay after graduation, thus perpetuating the city’s thriving arts scene. The arts in turn attract others working in many fields.

Summer concerts, sports events and other entertainment outlets attract visitors, some of whom eventually move here. The result: the area around downtown Chicago has been a national leader both in attracting more new residents age 25 to 34 and in job growth. Some parts of the city have seen population double, others are stable and some are in decline. If we look closely, that’s simply how cities work.

We learned this and more while writing our new book, “Scenescapes: How Qualities of Place Shape Social Life.” It details many Chicago specifics by comparing how they vary in other locations, from Seoul to Paris to San Francisco. Chicago remains vibrant, although now less a group of ethnic neighborhoods and more a collection of scenes based on new interests as well as primordial roots...

Read more.