Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Lao in Illinois

Current estimates suggest there are nearly 6,000 Laotians living in Illinois with 517 in Chicago, 1,190 in Rockford and over 4,000 in Elgin and nearby areas like Handover Park, Streamwood, South Elgin, St. Charles, Carpentersville and Algonquin. This figure, like many across the US, is believed to be undercounted. As a side note, the Lue community has a significant population near Rockford.

In Chicago, locals believe most Laotians reside in Albany Park and the Uptown neighborhoods and a few in Niles. Uptown was particularly affordable during the original resettlement period of the early 1980s.

The average income is believed to be about $42,445, with many from the first generation working in factories, while second-generation Laotians with more education are working in more skilled professions.

Currently, there are five major Wat Lao in Illinois: two in Elgin, one in Hampshire and two in Rockford.

There are several known organizations in Illinois including Lao American Organization of Illinois, the Lao American Community Center, Lao American Community Services, Lao Community Health Project and the Southeast Asian Youth Program at the YWCA of Elgin.

There are also at least two regularly practicing Laotian visual artists, and a number of writers, musicians and film-makers based here.

No comments: