Editor’s note: The south central area of Elkhart — one of the poorest and most racially diverse areas of the county — is often viewed only through the lens of crimes that happen in the area. This project attempts tell a more complex story through the people who call the neighborhood home.
The area south of the downtown area and the curving Norfolk Southern Railroad line that bisects Elkhart is emblematic of some of the older sections of the city. And it’s the focus of several grassroots groups — Elkhart Community Roundtable, Nine Blocks, My Hood Needz Me — trying to address the varied challenges in the zone, including violent crime.
The areas reviewed
- South central: The south central Elkhart area is within Census Tract 26, bounded roughly by the Norfolk Southern Railroad on the north and east, Oakland Avenue to the west and Wolf Avenue to the south.
- East Jackson: The East Jackson Boulevard area is in Census Tract 29, bounded by the St. Joseph River to the north, Middleton Run Road to the east, Third Street to the west and the railroad line that borders the southern periphery of the neighborhood to the south.
- Northeast Elkhart: The northeast Elkhart area is in Census Tract 18.02 and includes much of Greenleaf Boulevard and the neighborhood just east of East Lake. It’s bounded by the St. Joseph River to the south, C.R. 17 to the east, C.R. 6 to the north and Jeanwood Drive to the west, though a small area juts further west to Osolo Road south of Bristol Street.
See the accompanying maps for more details.
Stats from the U.S. Census Bureau help paint a picture of the area (scroll down to see visual data), and the numbers, compared to other neighborhoods, make for a study in contrasts. Some of the figures, like educational attainment levels and median household income, show the south central area lagging.
Here are some key points the data suggest:
- Fewer residents have high school or college degrees, which correlates to lower earning power.
- Fewer own their homes, which, according to some experts, can lead to higher neighborhood instability.
- There are higher concentrations of blacks, Hispanics and people born outside the United States.
- The median age is younger.
We looked at the figures for three specific Census Bureau tracts here — one covering the older south central Elkhart area, one covering the area off East Jackson Boulevard, a less racially diverse moderate-income area, and another covering northeastern Elkhart, home to some of the newer developments (see the sidebar and accompanying maps for more details).
We also looked at the numbers for Elkhart County overall.
The numbers came from the Census Bureau’s five-year American Community Survey for Elkhart County, covering the 2008-2012 period. Here are some highlights, represented graphically:
Here are a few more numbers.
Total population: The population count in the period covered totaled 5,039 in the south central area, 4,642 in the East Jackson neighborhood and 6,408 in the northeast Elkhart section, according to the American Community Survey figures. Elkhart County’s overall population was 198,214.
South central residents are younger: Median ages (half of the population being older, half being younger) were: 26.7 years old, south central; 39.9, East Jackson; and 44.6, northeast Elkhart. Similarly, the population ages 19 and younger amounted to 44.5 percent of the south central population, 25.6 percent of the East Jackson population and 25.8 percent of the northeast Elkhart residents.