Census estimates again confirm Illinois population loss driven by people leaving

Census estimates again confirm Illinois population loss driven by people leaving

New data showed domestic migration continued to be the only reason for Illinois’ population decline.

Illinois’ population decline is being driven entirely by residents choosing to live in other states, estimates released May 4 by the U.S. Census Bureau again confirm.

While the state is seeing a natural increase as births continue to outpace deaths and it gains people from other countries, so many people are moving out of Illinois and to other states that the total population is in decline.

Estimates from the Census Bureau show there were 22,601 more births than deaths in Illinois, 11,164 net migrants gained from abroad, but -113,205 residents lost on net to other states.

The loss of residents to other states was third worst in the nation in terms of the raw number – better than only New York and California, and the fourth worst as a percentage of the population – better than only Hawaii, New York and Alaska.

Major reasons Illinoisans are choosing to leave the state are for better housing and employment opportunities, both of which have been made worse by poor public policy in Illinois. Nearly half of Illinoisans have thought about moving away, and they said taxes were their No. 1 reason. Population decline also contributes to the lower economic prospects of the state.

While the estimates released May 4 by the Census Bureau offer insights into the components of population change, there are discrepancies between the Census Bureau’s estimates of the population and their official decennial Census count, which showed a much smaller 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 in the official count from the 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 more likely in this scenario that the components of 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 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 what is driving changes in the state population.

Regardless of the count, Illinois is losing residents because people are choosing to live in other states.

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