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Chicago Parents Identify the Top 10 Social Issues Affecting Youth 2018-19

December 02, 2019

Children and adolescents in Chicago continue to face many social challenges. In our second wave of data collection, we again asked parents in Chicago which social issues they were most concerned about for youth in the city. To do this, researchers at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital teamed up with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) on the 2018-19 Healthy Chicago Survey, Jr. We asked parents from all 77 community areas in Chicago which social problems they considered to be “big problems” for all children and adolescents in Chicago – not just for their own kids.

In this report, we share the “Top 10” social issues facing youth in Chicago identified by those parents (Figure 1).

Report Highlights

  • Consistent with last year, the top social issues that Chicago parents are concerned about for youth were gun violence, bullying and cyberbullying, and poverty.
  • Hunger was new to the top 10 list this year, with 62% of parents considering this a big problem.
  • Parents with high household income were more concerned about racial disparities in health, followed by those with very low household income and those with middle income.

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Information You Can Use

1. Gun Violence – 85%

Gun violence was the top social concern that parents identified for Chicago youth again this year.

In 2018, there were 475 firearm homicides in Chicago, compared with 604 firearm homicides in 2017. Strengthening Chicago’s Youth (SCY), a collaborative convened by Lurie Children's, provides training, support and evidence-based strategies for violence prevention.  

2. Bullying and Cyberbullying – 73%

The second most frequent social concern was bullying and cyberbullying.

The Crisis Textline provides text message support for those in crisis 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Text CONNECT to 741741. Additionally, www.stopbullying.gov provides resources to learn more about bullying and cyberbullying.

3. Poverty – 70%

Poverty was the third most frequent social concern. Parental concern about youth poverty did not vary by a person’s household income.

Individuals and families in need of assistance can find more information about assistance from the Illinois Department of Human Services.


4. Racial Disparities in Health – 68%   

Racial disparities in health, or worse health for children of color than for white children, was number four on the list. Parents with higher income (400% FPL) were most concerned about this issue (79%), followed by parents living in poverty (<100% FPL) (67%), and those with near-poor or middle income (100-399% FPL) (59%). Racial disparities in health was the second biggest issue among parents who were 45 years old and older (72%).

5. Racism and Discrimination – 67%

Closely connected to the previous issue, approximately 2 in 3 parents considered racism and discrimination a big problem facing Chicago youth. Concern about racism and discrimination differed by household income level. Parents living in poverty (<100% FPL) were most concerned about this issue (75%), followed by those with higher income (400%+ FPL) (66%), and those with near-poor or middle income (100-399% FPL) (61%).

Experiencing racism and discrimination in childhood can lead to chronic stress, which is associated with a variety of negative health outcomes such as chronic disease and mental health problems.

6. Social Media – 66%

The sixth most commonly identified social problem for kids in Chicago was social media. Similar to what we found last year, parents with at least one older child (11+ years old) were more likely to be concerned about social media (74%) than parents of only younger children (0-5 years old) (54%). In fact, social media was the third top concern among parents with at least one older child.

The website, www.stopbullying.gov has resources for parents to learn more about social media apps and sites that teens and children frequently use, and how to report cyberbullying. For girls, reduction in sleep and physical activity in addition to greater exposure to cyberbullying may result in negative mental health effects from frequent social media use.

7. Lack of Adult Supervision and Involvement – 64%

Lack of adult supervision and involvement was the seventh most common social concern for Chicago youth. Parents who had only boys or who had boys and girls were more likely to be concerned about this issue (69% and 67%, respectively) than parents with only girls (57%).

8. Hunger – 62%

New to the top ten list of youth social concerns is hunger, with 62% of parents considering this a big problem facing Chicago youth. Concern about youth hunger was greater for parents with lower income than higher income.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository maintains an online map where individuals can enter an address or zip code to find the nearest food pantry, soup kitchen, mobile food distribution or shelter in Cook County.

9. Not Enough Job Opportunities for Parents – 60%

Another top youth social concern that Chicago parents identified was that there were not enough job opportunities for parents. Parents living in poverty (<100% FPL) were most concerned about this issue (75%), followed by those with near-poor or middle income (100-399% FPL) (58%), and those with higher income (400%+ FPL) (48%).

10. Violence at Schools – 60%

The tenth most common social concern that parents identified for youth in Chicago was violence at schools.

Know the Signs is a collection of research-based programs and practices to help protect children from gun violence.


About the survey

The sample consisted of 2,982 adults in Chicago, 740 of whom were the parent, step-parent, foster parent, or guardian (referred to here as parents) of at least one child under 18 years old living in the household. We asked parents about their own health and the health of their children. The survey cooperation rate was 12%. All analyses were conducted with statistical weighting so that they are representative of the adult population of the City of Chicago during the time period of data collection. For more information about health in your community, visit chicagohealthatlas.org.


Davis MM, Heffernan ME, Smith T, Bendelow A, Bhatti PK, Prachand NG, Weaver KN, Laflamme EM. Chicago Parents Identify the Top 10 Social Issues Affecting Chicago Youth 2018-2019. Voices of Child Health in Chicago Report. Vol 1, Number 10. October 2019. Available at luriechildrens.org/Top10SocialIssues2019.

Who We Are

Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP
Marie Heffernan, PhD
Tracie Smith, MPH
Anne Bendelow, MPH
Punreet Bhatti, MD

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Report 11 Press Release