All Illinois metro areas see populations drop in 2020

All Illinois metro areas see populations drop in 2020

Each of Illinois’ metropolitan areas got smaller from July 2019-July 2020, census estimates showed.

Illinois’ population decline is hitting all metropolitan areas of the state.

All metropolitan areas in Illinois shrank from July 2019-July 2020, new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show. The statewide population decline is driven entirely by people leaving Illinois, but it is also the primary reason individual metro areas are shrinking.

The Chicago-Naperville-Evanston metropolitan division population shrank by an estimated 45,361 in 2020, the third most of any metropolitan division in the nation. Only Los Angeles and New York City lost more people.

While the largest numerical declines in the population are coming from the most populous areas of the state, smaller metropolitan areas are seeing their populations decline faster. The Cairo and Danville metropolitan areas experienced the most rapid population decline in 2020.

While the estimates released May 4 by the Census Bureau offer insights into where population decline is occurring the most, there are discrepancies between the Census Bureau’s estimates of the population and their official decennial Census count, which showed a much smaller statewide population loss that hasn’t yet been addressed by the Census Bureau.

Questions over the accuracy of the official count have been raised on numerous occasions in recent years. One of the primary ways the Census Bureau checks the official count is to compare it with their previous estimates.

It is also unclear what effect Illinois’ increased census outreach spending, which was second highest in the nation, had on the official results. It is possible increased spending resulted in a more accurate count in 2020 than in 2010, which could explain the difference between the official count and estimates. The 2020 estimates are based on the 2010 official count.

This wouldn’t be the first time improvements in the Census process have resulted in official counts that are different from the estimates. It is also likely the estimated geographic trends in population change are still relatively accurate, just that the 2010 base population level was incorrect.

The recently published official decennial Census count pegged Illinois’ population higher than estimates projected, but the population drop of 18,124 residents statewide was still the first time in 200 years Illinois lost population in the official count. No matter the reason for the discrepancy between the count and estimates, the new estimates data still likely provides valuable insight into where changes in the state population are occurring most.

Illinois lawmakers are now tasked with drawing new state legislative and congressional districts, with Illinois losing a U.S. representative seat thanks to population decline. Estimates for which areas of the state are losing residents the most could provide some insight into which districts are most likely to see substantial change.

Congressional redistricting is especially strict, requiring districts as close to equal in population as practical, meaning there is virtually no way to draw districts without the official census numbers. Candidates cannot know what the districts will look like until after the Illinois General Assembly passes a map and Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs it into law.

Because the detailed numbers are not expected to be available until late summer, congressional candidates will be scrambling to gather the required signatures to meet the Nov. 29 filing deadline under the current election code.

No one will know which representative’s district will be eliminated, although Crain’s Chicago Business reported Democratic leaders were seeing a map that could cost Republicans two seats in the U.S. House. The Illinois Congressional Delegation would then have 14 Democrats and three Republicans, rather than the current 13-5 split.

With supermajorities in the Illinois House, Illinois Senate and control of the governor’s office, it is a safe bet Democrats will target at least one Republican-held seat. That is, unless Pritzker follows through on his promise to veto any partisan, gerrymandered map.

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