Outmigration caused Illinois’ population to decline again in 2022
New Census Bureau data shows people moving out of Illinois continues to drive the state’s population decline. So many moved away in the year before July 2022, it was almost like Rockford disappearing.
Illinois’ population declined by a record 104,437 residents from July 2021-July 2022, according to estimates released Dec. 22 by the U.S. Census Bureau.
This marks the ninth consecutive year of population decline for Illinois, according to Census Bureau estimates. The only state that’s population has been in decline longer, West Virginia, currently is suffering its 10th consecutive year of population decline.
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 4,866 more births than deaths in Illinois, 31,529 net migrants gained from abroad, but 141,656 residents lost on net to other states. The loss in residents to other states was the largest in state history. It was nearly as many people as if Illinois’ fifth-largest city, Rockford, disappeared.
Both domestic outmigration, which is people moving to other states, and total population decline were third-worst in the nation in terms of the raw number – better than only New York and California. Of Illinois’ neighboring states, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Wisconsin all gained residents from other states and only Iowa and Michigan lost residents to other states.
Meanwhile, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Arizona were the states attracting the largest number of residents from other states.
When controlling for population size, population decline and outmigration in Illinois were second-worst in the nation as a percentage of population – better than only New York. Illinois is losing residents five times faster than Iowa and 13 times faster than Michigan, the only two neighbor states to suffer migration losses to other states.
The states attracting residents the fastest were South Carolina, Idaho, Florida, Montana, Delaware and Tennessee.
While Illinois has been fortunate to continue to experience “natural increases” in population as births continue to outpace deaths, the gap between the two has been narrowing historically and international migration rates into the state have varied widely. Domestic migration will be vitally important to reversing Illinois’ population decline.
Traditionally, the major reasons Illinoisans are choosing to leave the state 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.
The record number of residents who left Illinois this year should be a wake-up call to the state’s leaders, who refuse 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 to make the state more affordable and send people running to Illinois, rather than away from it.