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Northwestern University Reparations Research Collaborative

aerial panorama
Studying attitudes toward Evanston’s reparations policy
  • Client
    Northwestern University
  • Dates
    February-June 2023


Northwestern’s Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy wanted to understand the impact of an innovative reparations effort.

In 2019, the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, became the first city in the United States to enact a reparations program to address the historical injustices faced by Black residents. As part of the program, funded by Evanston’s Municipal Cannabis Retailer's Occupation Tax, eligible individuals could receive up to $25,000 to apply toward buying a home, improving a home, or paying down a mortgage. The city’s reparations program has gained national and international attention. Understanding the program’s impact—and how that impact is perceived by Evanston residents—will help inform how similar efforts might be structured and implemented.

In October 2022, Northwestern University’s Center for the study of Diversity and Democracy (CSDD) launched a research collaborative to examine the program’s impact on public sentiments about race relations within the Evanston community and the functioning of municipal government. The collaborative’s advisory board will bring together city officials, social science researchers and civic leaders to help oversee the project.


NORC surveyed 3,500 Evanston residents between February and June 2023.

The survey included three phases. During the first phase, the web survey link was distributed among Evanston residents through listservs and community outreach events. Next, postcards were sent to 10,000 Evanston addresses strategically targeting areas to improve representation. In the final phase, Northwestern University students went to public locations to recruit residents who had not already completed the survey to complete the web survey at that time. The methodology allowed for every Evanston adult resident who wanted to complete the survey to do so while also making efforts to increase representation throughout the Evanston wards. 


Our survey found that most Evanston residents support the reparations program.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • 70% of white respondents viewed the reparations program as "good public policy" for the city of Evanston. This is a significant finding, as previous surveys nationwide have never recorded more than 20% support among white Americans for reparations.
  • 64% of Black respondents, 61% of Latino respondents, and 62% of Asian respondents also expressed support for the program.
  • The Evanston City Council's decision to pass the reparations ordinance led to double-digit net increases in trust in city government across all nine of the city’s wards and among all ethnic and racial demographic groups.

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