U.S. Census: Historic population loss hits every Illinois metro area

April 17, 2019

U.S. Census: Historic population loss hits every Illinois metro area

CHICAGO (April 17, 2019) – For the first time on record, every metropolitan area based in Illinois shrank last year, according to new U.S. Census Bureau data released today.

From July 2017 to July 2018, the Chicago metro area experienced the largest raw population decline in the nation, shrinking by 22,068 people. Danville, Peoria and Decatur saw the worst population decline among Illinois metros on a percentage basis – and among the worst nationwide.

Analysis by the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute found the population decline was caused almost entirely by migration of Illinoisans to other states in search of better economic opportunities. This is the first local population data released covering the time period after Illinois’ historic 2017 income tax hike.

Across the nation, the metro areas growing both the most and the fastest are typically in states with competitive tax environments and healthy jobs growth. Dallas grew by 131,767 people last year, topping the list of U.S. metro area population growth, followed by Phoenix and Houston.

Takeaways from the analysis include: 

  • The Chicago area experienced the largest population decline of any metro area in the nation last year, shrinking by 22,068 people. Chicago population has been declining since 2014.
  • Outside of Chicago, Peoria and Springfield suffered the most population loss in Illinois in raw terms. Peoria shrank by 3,437 people, while Springfield shrank by 1,539 people.
  • Last year, 86 out of Illinois’ 102 counties lost population. Since 2010, 93 of Illinois 102 counties have experienced population decline.
  • The largest growing counties over the year were Kendall (+1,643), Will (+1,293), Kane (+1,060) and McHenry (+557).
  • Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles all shrank in 2018. The fastest-growing big cities included Dallas, Phoenix, Orlando, Las Vegas, Austin, Jacksonville and Raleigh.
Quote from Chief Economist Orphe Divounguy:

“More than half of all migration is motivated by employment prospects, and we’re seeing this across the nation as people flee high-tax, progressive income tax states for more competitive business climates bursting with opportunity. With Illinois’ unchecked growth in spending and taxes, it’s no surprise to see all of Illinois metro areas afflicted by this trend and struggling to grow.

“If Illinois lawmakers follow through with their threat to swap the state’s flat income tax for a progressive one, it would only exacerbate the state’s people problem. By sticking residents, businesses and job seekers with a $3.4 billion tax hike, more Illinoisans will head for the exit, leaving those who stay to foot the bill.”

To read the full analysis of the latest U.S. Census release, visit: https://illin.is/2PjyuN9

For bookings or interviews, contact media@illinoispolicy.org or (312) 607-4977.