Illinois 1 of 7 states to see residents move out faster in 2021
Illinoisans fled at a record pace in 2021. The state lost 122,460 residents on net because of moves to other states.
Illinois’ population declined by a record 113,776 residents from July 2020 to July 2021, according to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The estimates also show the sole driver of Illinois’ population decline was residents leaving for other states. The 122,460 residents who left was a record high.
This marks the eighth consecutive year of population decline for Illinois, according to Census Bureau estimates. West Virginia is the only state whose population has been in decline longer, just suffering its ninth consecutive year.
Illinois continues to see a natural increase in population as births outpace deaths, but by an increasingly narrow margin. It also is gaining residents from abroad. But so many people are moving out of Illinois to other states that the state’s total population is in decline.
Estimates from the Census Bureau showed there were 2,778 more births than deaths in Illinois, 5,766 net migrants gained from abroad, but 122,460 residents lost on net to other states.
The loss of residents to other states was up 7% in Illinois relative to 2020 estimates. Illinois is one of seven states to see spikes in outmigration rates in 2021 compared to 2020.
Among the states that were previously losing residents to other states, North Dakota saw the largest spike, with outmigration rates increasing by 130%. Other states to see sizable increases in outmigration were New York (+68%), California (+52%), Massachusetts (+41%), Minnesota (+36%), and Louisiana (+20%).
Virginia, Hawaii, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Kansas, Alaska, Mississippi, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio all continued to lose residents to domestic outmigration in 2021, but at a slower pace than in 2020.
Meanwhile, most states that were previously on the receiving end of migration from other states saw large increases in domestic in-migration. Neighboring Indiana saw the largest boost in migration rates among these states, with migration rates increasing by nearly 10 times the level seen in 2020.
New Hampshire, Arkansas, Maine, Oklahoma, Montana and Utah all saw migration rates increase by 100% or more from July 2020-July 2021. Migration rates in Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Oregon remained positive yet slightly below their 2020 levels.
There were also a fair number of states that saw reversals in their migration trends from 2020 to 2021.
Vermont, Connecticut, South Dakota, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky and Wisconsin all lost residents to outmigration in 2020 but gained residents thanks to domestic migration in 2021. New Mexico and Washington had previously gained residents from domestic migration in 2020 but lost residents because of migration in 2021.
As the “natural increase” in population – the difference between births and deaths – has been shrinking historically, domestic migration has become an even larger factor in population growth for states.
The major reasons Illinoisans have chosen to leave the state have been 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 was their No. 1 reason. Population decline also contributes to the lower economic prospects of the state.
It remains unclear to what extent these factors contributed to Illinoisans moving out of state from 2020-2021, rather than other factors such as pandemic-related job losses, school closures and government mandates. Nonetheless, census data confirms Illinois’ outmigration-driven population decline has reached record levels and is more of a problem now than ever as Illinois is one of only a handful of states with accelerating outmigration, regardless of the cause.