The Loss of the Working Class

in Blueprint for Disaster

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780226360850
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226360874 | DOI:
The Loss of the Working Class

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In the decades following World War II, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) underwent a dramatic reversal in its tenant population. In 1948 it housed predominantly working-class, two-parent families, and three-quarters of its 7,600 families had at least one wage earner. But by 1984 everything had changed. Only the city's poorest families lived in the CHA's 30,000 family apartments, with just 10 percent reporting employment and 73 percent relying on the meager benefits of the federal program Aid to Families with Dependent Children. More than design, more than location, critics pointed to deep concentrations of poverty as the defining characteristic of public housing in Chicago and in much of the nation. In a surprisingly short period of time, Chicago's projects went from housing the working-class African Americans to sheltering predominantly female-headed households dependent upon a penurious welfare state. The exodus of the working class deepened an already serious fiscal crisis at the CHA, but the CHA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Congress danced around issues more than they confronted them.

Keywords: Chicago Housing Authority; working class; African Americans; Chicago; public housing; poverty; welfare state; Department of Housing; fiscal crisis; apartments

Chapter.  12189 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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