Oak Park is a village adjacent to the West Side of Chicago, Illinois. It is the 29th most populous municipality in Illinois as counted in the 2010 U.S. census. As of the 2010 United States Census the village had a population of 51,878.
Oak Park is located immediately west of the city of Chicago. The boundary between the two municipalities is Austin Boulevard on the east side of Oak Park and North Avenue/Illinois Route 64 on the village’s north side. Oak Park borders Cicero along its southern border, Roosevelt Road/Illinois Route 38, from Austin to Lombard; and Berwyn from Lombard to Harlem Avenue. Harlem/Illinois Route 43 serves as its western border, where between Roosevelt and South Boulevard, it borders Forest Park and between North Boulevard and North Avenue to the west it borders River Forest.
The entire village of Oak Park lies on the shore of ancient Lake Chicago, which covered most of the city of Chicago during the last Ice Age, and was the forerunner to today’s Lake Michigan. Ridgeland Avenue in eastern Oak Park marks the shoreline of the lake, and was once an actual ridge. As with the geographical setup of the Chicago River, which connects to the present day Lake Michigan just north of the city’s Loop, the ancient Des Plaines river once emptied into glacial Lake Chicago, making prehistoric Oak Park a “Plains river Delta” system. One of North America’s four continental divides runs through Oak Park. This divide, a slight rise running north-south through the village, separates the Saint Lawrence River watershed from the Mississippi River watershed, and is marked by one plaque on Lake Street at Forest Avenue and another in the northwest corner of Taylor Park.
According to the 2010 census, Oak Park has a total area of 4.7 square miles (12.17 km), all land.
As of the 2010 census there were 51,878 people, 22,670 households, and 13,037 families residing in the village. The population density was 11,037.9 people per square mile. The racial makeup of the village was 67.7% White, 21.7% African American, 0.2% American Indian, 4.8% Asian, 2.0% some other race, and 3.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.8% of the population. In Oak Park, 13.1% spoke a language other than English at home and 10.3% were foreign-born.
For the period 2009–11, the estimated median annual income for a household in the village was $78,384, and the median income for a family was $105,217. Male full-time workers had a median income of $77,760 versus $58,653 for females. The per capita income for the village was $46,687. About 5.9% of families and 8.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.0% of those under age 18 and 4.3% of those age 65 or over.
In the 1960s Oak Parkers began a concerted effort to avoid the destructive racial housing practices occurring in nearby communities. Racial steering and block-by-block panic peddling caused rapid racial change on Chicago’s west side, including the Austin Community Area adjacent to Oak Park. Whites left west side neighborhoods based on concerns of property value losses and crime increases, and some businesses left as well. The Village of Oak Park passed a fair housing ordinance in 1968 (in the same year as the federal Fair Housing Act) to ensure equal access to housing in the community. In 1972, the Oak Park Housing Center was founded by Roberta “Bobbie” Raymond to promote integration in the community, by ensuring equal access and discouraging white flight. Part of this effort included banning “for sale” signs on houses. Although this law became unconstitutional with the decision in Linmark Associates, Inc. v. Township of Willingboro, usage of the signs is still strongly discouraged by local realtors.
An evaluation of the policy in Oak Park to promote integration, written in the early years of the 21st century noted the gradual increase in the share of Village population that is black, at 22% in 2000, and further observed ‘”as late as 2000 there were no resegregated census tracts, with tracts ranging from 7% black to 36% black. . . . this was not
because the pattern of rapid westward resegregation had run its course, because events in neighboring suburbs showed that segregation trends were still operating. Instead, the pattern in a sense leaped over Oak Park to other suburbs farther west, including Bellwood and Maywood, which resegregated in a relatively short time.