Illinois population drop, departures among worst in U.S.

Illinois population drop, departures among worst in U.S.

Illinois lost 83,839 residents who moved to other states, one of the highest rates in the U.S. and driving a 10th consecutive year of population decline. It ranks near the bottom on multiple other population measures, too.

A decade of population declines is bad, but when Illinois’ 2023 population drop and loss of residents to other states are examined there is an even greater level of concern.

Here are some ways the U.S. Census Bureau recently measured Illinois’ poor ability to keep its residents.

Illinois vs. others: The state’s number of people moving to other states and total population decline are among the worst in the nation. When comparing all 50 states’ 2023 population change, Illinois (-32,826) ranks 48th with only California (-75,423) and New York (-101,984) losing more people. Even when considering population size, Illinois ranks 47th in total population decline with only Hawaii, Louisiana and New York losing population faster.

The same trends hold true for domestic migration – the sole cause of Illinois’ population decline. Illinois (-83,839) ranks 48th in raw domestic migration, ahead of only New York (-216,778) and California (-338,371). When measured relative to the state’s total population, Illinois’ outmigration crisis ranks 46th, with only residents of Alaska, Hawaii, California and New York leaving their states at a faster rate.

Length of loss: This marks the 10th consecutive year of population decline for Illinois, according to census estimates for 2023. The only state that’s population has been in decline longer, West Virginia, currently is suffering its 11th consecutive year of population decline.

Amount of loss: 32,826 fewer people were estimated to live in Illinois on July 1, 2023, than were here in June 30, 2022, according to estimates released Dec. 19 by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Cause of loss: 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 show there were 10,453 more births than deaths in Illinois, 40,492 net migrants gained from abroad, but 83,839 residents lost on net to other states.

Why the losses: When taxes were not a response option, surveys of those who 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.

Among surveys where taxes are permitted as a response, high taxes are consistently 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 Illinois Policy Institute’s Lincoln Poll this year found 51% of the voters surveyed would leave if they could. Again, most blamed high taxes.

The fact Illinois’ population is declining while all neighboring states continue to grow should tell our state’s leaders they need to adopt policies that would make it easier for residents to stay in Illinois. Reforms that would ease Illinoisans’ tax burden or reduce arduous business regulations are needed.

Illinois is not measuring up. Residents for 10 years have been telling state leaders that by becoming former Illinoisans.

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