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Illinois sees new growth in population loss — more than 51,000 in 2019

By GREG BISHOP, The Center Square

Illinois lost nearly 105,000 people in net domestic migration between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019, according to new numbers released Monday by the U.S. Census Bureau. In total, the Land of Lincoln lost on net 51,250 people, the largest annual population decline this decade.

It’s the sixth consecutive year Illinois’ population declined. The 51,250 in net population loss is roughly the size of the village of Hoffman Estates in suburban Chicago or Normal in downstate McLean County.

Last year, Illinois dropped from the fifth to the sixth most populous state, losing an estimated 45,000 people and falling behind Pennsylvania. In 2017, Illinois lost around 40,000 people. In 2016, there was a loss around 38,000 people. In 2015, there was a loss of around 25,000. In 2014, there was a loss of around 10,000.

The cumulative total is almost 160,000 lost from Illinois in the past 10 years.

“It’s kind of a disturbing trend because we’re looking at if it holds out next year that we’ll probably be losing at least one congressional seat so that certainly cuts into our congressional representation,” Northern Illinois University Senior Research Associate Brian Harger said Monday. “It also impacts some of our eligibility for federal aid.”

When it comes to Illinoisans moving out of the state, there were nearly 105,000 people lost. Harger said that’s fewer lost to other states than in previous years.

“The birth rate historically has acted kind of as a buffer in our losses in other areas,” Harger said. “That’s not the case anymore.”

Harger said Illinois’ neighbors continue to grow while Illinois shrinks.

“Iowa for example gained about 6,500 people and Iowa is a fairly small state, it’s a population about a third of the size of Illinois,” he said. “Indiana seems to be one of the bigger gainers. They gained about 37,000.”

Harger said Michigan is still growing but at a slower pace.

As to why people are leaving Illinois, Harger said it’s all anecdotal.

“The weather has always been what it’s been, it’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter,” Harger said. “But economic factors certainly play into that. Job creation and job growth figures do play a role in that. People move to where there’s opportunity. Illinois has struggled economically since the last recession in particular as far as creating jobs so that obviously is not an attractive factor to people.”

The U.S. Census announced the numbers nationally on Monday. According to national and state population estimates, 42 states and the District of Columbia had fewer births in 2019 than 2018.

“While natural increase is the biggest contributor to the U.S. population increase, it has been slowing over the last five years,” said Dr. Sandra Johnson, a demographer/statistician in the Population Division of the Census Bureau. “Natural increase, or when the number of births is greater than the number of deaths, dropped below 1 million in 2019 for the first time in decades.”

The Census said the nation’s population was 328.2 million, growing by 0.5 percent over the year, or by nearly 1.6 million people.

On net domestic migration, Illinois lost 104,986 in 2019, coming behind net domestic migration losses in California (-203,414) and New York (-180,649).

Population losses come with a myriad of financial implications for Illinois officials. Many federal grants and other assistance is calculated based on population. Fewer people buying homes could lower property values, pushing property taxes higher. Companies seeking to relocate or expand in a state often view population loss as a negative quality because a growing business needs new workers. After reapportionment in 2021, Illinois will likely lose at least one congressional seat because the seats are based on population.

Photo: Trong Nguyen/

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