Project goals

Metropolitan Planning Council’s (MPC’s) Equitable Financial Incentives research was designed to better understand how equity is centered in the way the City of Chicago uses financial incentives to attract investments to communities. We looked at how and where six incentives have been used in Chicago and whether the funding has gone to areas that are considered economically disadvantaged. Our definition of disadvantage was based on socio-economic factors that indicate longstanding symptoms of disinvestment.

MPC conducted this research with the guidance of an Advisory Group. With their experience and expertise, we developed recommendations for rooting the process and outcomes for financial incentives in equity to better address longstanding issues of inequitable investment in Chicago’s communities. These recommendations are being tested out with public users via this website.

This research was designed to accomplish the following goals:

Provide basic information about six public funding sources that are classified as incentives. Information exists in multiple locations and often does not provide a simple, clear definition of how and where the incentive can be used, what some of the intended outcomes are, as well as additional background on the incentive and easy links for applying or finding out more information.

Understand how equity has or has not been a driver of incentive use. Although equity is not typically an explicit goal of many incentive programs, narratives within the media and amongst community organizations and stakeholders frequently question the fairness of these programs, particularly since they rely on public resources. MPC believes that investments should prioritize equity.

Provide a clear, accessible picture of where and how incentives have been used in Chicago for the past 10 years. This information is not readily accessible to the average resident. Often data is provided on each incentive individually, which makes it difficult to understand the total amount used in any one area. MPC believes that this information should be aggregated and accessible to everyone so we all have a better understanding of how and where financial incentives are being provided.

Determine whether incentive use aligns with socio-economic factors that can indicate areas of advantage and disadvantage. This research provides a simple framework for showing how much and how often financial incentives have been used in areas that have factors that indicate disadvantage. MPC believes that creating an index and tracking incentive use is critical to crafting recommendations and policies with a sharper focus on areas of disadvantage.

Identify recommendations to improve incentive programs in collaboration with advisors. The Advisory Group and other external reviewers provided clear direction: They are interested in refining incentives programs to ensure that local and small business owners and entrepreneurs are able to access the resources and that use is tied to equitable outcomes for neighborhoods and residents. MPC’s recommendations focus on strategies to achieve this.

To learn more about our research, please visit the methodology page.


This project was a joint effort between MPC’s Land Use and Planning and Research teams and included the support and dedication of multiple staff members, research assistants, advisors, and external reviewers.. For more information about this research and recommendations, please contact the following:

Jordan Bailly, Associate of Land Use and ETOD: jbailly@metroplanning.org
Daniel Cooper, Research Director: dcooper@metroplanning.org
Christina Harris, Director of Land Use and Planning: charris@metroplanning.org

Learn more about the project contributors.