Stay the F$%* Away From Alcohol in Chicago’s West and South Sides

ChicagoSkylineThe old adage says that the most important part of a business is location, location, and location. I’d argue that this can be extended beyond the walls of entrepreneurship, however. Your happiness, for example, would benefit from your body being located in Hawaii versus Damascus at the moment, I would assume. And your status of being alive would benefit from staying away from liquor stores and taverns in Chicago.

At least that’s the finding of a new study from Northwestern University. The researchers examined census data to determine the number of alcoholic establishments in different areas of the city and cross-referenced that data with information from police reports in shooting incidents. They then also controlled that correlation with other variables that might increase a neighborhood’s likelihood of getting pegged: a higher proportion of young males, the number of male heads of households, educational status, and racial demographics.

This sort of study has been done before without any major correlations being discovered. Those studies, however, looked at the statistics on a city-wide scale instead of narrowing down to separate neighborhoods as this one did. And while in most of Chicago’s neighborhoods there was no correlation between getting shot and being near an alcoholic establishment, there most definitely was one in the most distressed neighborhoods.

Between 1999 and 2009, controlling for other variables, you were more likely to get shot near a liquor store or tavern if you were in the West Side or South Side of Chicago. Just how much more likely, you ask?

Five hundred times more likely. You read that right. 500.

“You’re adding alcohol to an already volatile situation in a distressed community,” said lead investigator Marie Crandall, associate professor of surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “If you light a match in the rainforest and throw it on the ground, the match will go out. If you light a match in a haystack in the middle of a drought, a powder keg will go off. These neighborhoods are powder kegs because they are challenged with high rates of unemployment, faltering economies, loss of jobs and institutionalized poverty and racism.”

So if you happen to find yourself in one of those two neighborhoods, do yourself a favor and avoid the liquor stores and taverns. In fact, perhaps you ought to just avoid those neighborhoods altogether.

The study was presented Sept. 18 at the 2013 Annual Meeting of The American Association for the Surgery of Trauma. Crandall’s research focuses on disparities in trauma care in the U.S. and Chicago.


About bigkingken

A science writer dedicated to proving that the Big Ten - or the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, if you will - is more than athletics.
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