Illinois loses more people faster to other states during COVID-19 pandemic
Illinois, California and New York shrank the most and lost people fastest during the COVID-19 pandemic. Texas and Florida grew the most. Idaho, Utah and Montana grew the fastest.
While there was some debate over what effect COVID-19 and the associated economic contraction may have had on people’s decisions to move to other states, new estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau reveal migration trends were aggravated during the pandemic.
There were concerns about whether economic constraints would dampen domestic migration trends. The opposite appears to have occurred, at least among the states where Americans are most likely to move to and from.
Data released Dec. 23 showed, generally, states that had previously been growing saw large increases in domestic migration. States that had been losing residents to other states in most cases saw an increase in the number and frequency with which residents moved away.
The acceleration in migration to and from these states largely served to exacerbate the state population trends of recent years. The states growing the most – Texas and Florida – continued to grow far more than other states. Likewise, states that had been battling large decreases in population such as New York, California and Illinois saw large decreases in their populations.
Similarly, states that had been growing the fastest on a percentage basis, such as Idaho, Utah and Montana, continued to grow their populations at rapid clips. Illinois and New York landed at the bottom of the pile for states whose populations were declining the most precipitously.
The migration problem has become quite serious for Illinois, as the state has now suffered its eighth consecutive year of population decline driven solely by people moving away. In 2021 both population decline and domestic outmigration reached record levels.
Making matters even worse is that “natural increases” in population continue to shrink as the gap between births and deaths has been narrowing historically. International migration rates into the state have varied widely. Getting people to move to Illinois will be vitally important to reversing the state’s population decline.
Traditionally, the major reasons Illinoisans are choosing to leave 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.
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, regardless of the cause. It needs to be addressed in order for the state population to one day grow again.