National trends affect towns in different ways, and so is the case with Forest Park. We took a look at new data quarterly released by the U.S. Census Bureau, still referring to 2018. While its various topics require deeper analysis, we outline five major trends reshaping Forest Park. These trends represent challenges and opportunities for residents and community leaders to address in years to come:
Trend 1: Forest Park property value is doing better than most places in the region. The average property value in the village now stands at $229,600. This figure is similar to 2013 values, but marks a strong recovery since the precipitous dip in 2015. While not ideal, this is actually good news. Besides River Forest and Oak Park, real estate values have been declining across the region, with a 7 percent decline in value since 2013. (Raw data is available at tables DP04 of the Bureau’s American Community Survey.) As we plan home improvements and formulate urban policy, this is a trend to keep in mind.
Trend 2: Forest Park residents are earning more. The average household income in the village now stands at $55,400 annually. That’s an 8 percent increase compared to 2013, higher than Illinois but not as strong as in Proviso and metropolitan areas (which saw an 11 percent salary increase over the same period). Unfortunately, the poverty rate has been increasing slightly, and now affects 10.1 percent of the village population, up from 7.8 percent in 2010. Though local governments often feel powerless against national trends, we must tackle inequality and poverty more proactively.
Trend 3: Forest Park loses 50 residents each year — 13,807 is the official resident estimate for 2018 (defined as those who “usually reside in the location,” excluding, for example, military and remote workers based elsewhere). This is down from 14,179 residents in 2010, a modest yet concerning decline of nearly 0.3 percent annually. It matches the widely publicized Illinois exodus, but goes against the national growth of 0.7 percent. In a few words, Forest Park is not keeping up with America. This trend is related to the following two developments.
Trend 4: Forest Park is changing its multicultural makeup. Over the decade, more whites and Asians have been moving to the village, whereas African Americans and Hispanics have been slowly moving out. There are 800 blacks and 100 Latinos less since 2010. In contrast, the 1,074 Asian American residents represent the fastest-growing ethnic group in Forest Park (with a whopping 3 percent growth each year). Similarly, the white (“Caucasian”) population of Forest Park has been growing above Illinois levels, and its share has grown to 49.5 percent of Forest Park population. These intriguing migratory flows have a direct influence on the last trend in this review.
Trend 5: Forest Park is becoming childless. With 2,300 children under 19, our village’s youth declined by 11 percent since 2010. This is concerning news because population growth is the basis for long-term economic development. According to the Bureau, Hispanics are driving the nation’s population growth, while also offsetting Illinois’ demographic downturn. But Hispanics aren’t coming to Forest Park. Consequently, the village population is shrinking, getting older (average resident’s age grew to 40.1), and raising fewer children.
None of these trends is immutable. Right decisions can nudge the village in a different direction. Yet they influence our lives even if invisibly: how we enjoy our neighborhoods, how we raise our children, and how our local leaders foster the common good. As importantly, these trends influence how we relate with each other, care about our neighbors, and welcome new people to enjoy our marvelous village.
Tony D’Andrea is a marketing strategist and social scientist. He has a PhD from the University of Chicago and has published extensively on social and cultural trends. Having lived and worked in four different continents, he is convinced that Forest Park is a great place to live.