46,400 extra Illinoisans found, but 364,443 others moved away

46,400 extra Illinoisans found, but 364,443 others moved away

Illinois’ base population total is larger than previously predicted after the U.S. Census discovered it had missed people in group quarters. But the change shouldn’t lull politicians into thinking taxes and other policies didn’t drive 364,443 people away.

Illinois gained 46,400 people, but it is still losing people.

The U.S. Census Bureau approved Illinois’ appeal to review the 2020 census of populations living in group quarters, such as care homes, senior living facilities and dormitory settings. The Post-Census Group Quarters Review found 46,400 Illinoisans living in group quarters were missed in the 2020 count.

While this is an important update for the state to receive proper amounts of federal funding, it will not change the fact the Census Bureau continues to estimate Illinois’ population is in decline, falling by nearly 264,000 residents since the 2020 Census. The drop in population has been entirely driven by domestic outmigration – 364,443 Illinoisans fleeing to other states – as the state’s policy environment continues to push residents away.

What it means

Illinois’ population is 46,400 larger than previously thought.

The 2020 Post-Census Group Quarters Review was created in response to challenges in accurately conducting an official count of residents living in group quarters amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This new, one-time operation has given governmental units the ability to submit further documentation to the Census Bureau on the size of these populations – which were among the most affected by changes in living arrangements during the pandemic – as of April 1, 2020. Now they can be incorporated into future estimates of populations used to determine federal funding.

These individuals will be included in the state’s population base beginning with 2024 estimates of the state’s population, which the Census Bureau will begin releasing in December 2024. Starting then, these estimates will be reflected in base population figures from April 1, 2020, and onward. Adding these individuals to the state’s population will help to more accurately determine Illinois’ share of federal funding in future years.

What it doesn’t mean

The results of the group quarters review do not show Illinois’ population is growing. The Census Bureau announced on Dec. 19, 2023, that Illinois’ population declined for the 10th consecutive year in 2023. The review does not attempt to estimate population change.

While the new announcement means there are more people living in Illinois than previously thought, it does not affect estimates of the components of population change such as births, deaths, international migration and domestic migration. Estimates of population change released by the Census Bureau on Dec. 19, 2023, show Illinois lost 263,780 residents from April 1, 2020, through June 30, 2023.

Illinois’ population decline during this time was entirely driven by 364,443 residents moving out of Illinois to other states. Births continued to outpace deaths and international migration remained positive.

Additionally, the group quarters review will not change the official 2020 Census results, which are mandated to be used for congressional apportionment and are used for redistricting.

The bottom line

Figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show Illinois’ population is in decline, despite being larger than previously thought. Still, it is important for Illinois’ population to be accurately counted, so the state gets its fair share of federal funding and to better understand demographics of the population. Unfortunately, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and others will continue to misconstrue this data to imply the state’s population is growing and avoid addressing the major tax and economic issues driving residents away.

Of the Illinoisans who leave the state on net, 97% moved to lower-tax states in 2022 – the most recent data available.  Historically, high taxes have been the No. 1 reason Illinoisans considered leaving the state. Polling from NPR Illinois and the University of Illinois found 61% of Illinoisans thought about moving out of state in 2019, and the No. 1 reason was taxes. The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute found 47% of Illinoisans wanted to leave the state in 2016. It also found “taxes are the single biggest reason people want to leave,” with 27% citing that motive. More recent polling conducted by Echelon Insights in 2023 substantiated these sentiments.

Even when taxes were not a response option, surveys of those who have left the state showed the major reasons were for better housing and employment opportunities. Both have been made worse by poor public policy in Illinois.

A 10th year of population decline, especially when driven by residents choosing to leave Illinois, should get the state’s leaders working on solutions. Politicians need to listen when people reject what they are offering. If they ease the tax burden and reduce arduous business regulations, they can make it easier for Illinoisans to stay.

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