Every Illinois metro area lost people in 2023; Chicago 3rd worst in nation

Every Illinois metro area lost people in 2023; Chicago 3rd worst in nation

Illinois’ population decline crisis has now spread to every major metropolitan area in the state. Chicago continued losing residents in 2023.

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 shows losses in every metropolitan area in the state.

While overall population decline slowed in 2023 compared to previous years, populations declined in virtually every corner of the state, according to data released March 14 by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Illinois portion of the Cape Girardeau metro area in Southern Illinois was losing at the fastest rate, but has a relatively small population. The Decatur metro area was losing more than 7 out of every 1,000 residents – substantially faster than Springfield (-3.8) or Bloomington (-2.8). Meanwhile, total population decline was the largest in the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin area, which lost 16,602 residents during the year.

Population decline in the Chicago metro area was among the worst in the nation in 2023, with only Los Angeles (-71,037) and New York (-65,549) losing more people.   

On the flip side, Dallas (+152,598) and Houston (+139,789) were the metro areas to see the largest population growth in 2023, followed by Atlanta, Orlando and Tampa.

Illinois’ population struggles continues to be driven exclusively by residents leaving for other states, with Florida and Texas being two of the most popular destinations.

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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