Cook County 2nd-worst in U.S. as 87 of 102 Illinois counties lose population

Cook County 2nd-worst in U.S. as 87 of 102 Illinois counties lose population

Illinois’ population decline crisis continues to affect virtually all counties despite fewer losses in 2023. Cook County saw nation’s second-highest number of residents moving out.

Illinois’ population decline continued for its 10th consecutive year in 2023 as the state’s population dropped by 32,826 residents from July 2022-July 2023, but new data showed losses were in 87 of Illinois’ 102 counties.

Population decline was the most pronounced in some of the state’s most populous counties, but most of the decline came from Cook County. It lost 24,494 residents during the year, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released March 14.

While overall population decline slowed in 2023 compared to previous years, population decline continued to plague virtually every corner of the state. The next largest losses after Cook County came in St. Clair County, losing 1,247, and Lake County, which lost 1,139 residents.

Statewide, population decline continues to be driven exclusively by domestic outmigration – residents leaving for other states. Cook County’s outmigration crisis was the second-worst in the nation last year, with more than 58,000 residents leaving the county. The only county to experience heavier losses was Los Angeles County.

Kings County and Queens County, New York, also saw outmigration totaling more than 50,000 residents each. Miami-Dade County also lost nearly 48,000 residents to outmigration despite growing in terms of total population.

The largest gains from domestic migration came from counties in Florida and Texas.

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. The Lincoln Poll conducted for the Illinois Policy Institute 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.

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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