Illinois Lost More Population Than Any Other State Last Year


Written by Mark Fitton

The door to Illinois continues to swing outward more often than it does inward.

New data released by the U.S. Census bureau showed that in terms of domestic migration — people moving about within the United States — Illinois saw roughly 105,200 more people leave than arrive.

Even when offset by a gain of more than 37,600 by way of international migration, Illinois still ended up about 67,500 in the negative column.

With natural growth (births minus deaths) counted, Illinois showed a net population loss of nearly 22,200 people, or about 0.17 percent of its population.

Of the 50 states, Illinois was the top population loser. Other states showing a net loss of population were Connecticut (-3,876); Maine (-928); Mississippi (-1,110); New Mexico, (-458); Vermont, (-725) and West Virginia (-4,623).

In terms of domestic migration, the only state besides Illinois to show a six-figure loss was New York at nearly 158,000. The Empire State, however, showed a net population increase thanks to natural growth and international migration.

Illinois’ immediate neighbors showed smaller losses to domestic migration than did the Prairie State. Wisconsin had the largest loss of the five bordering states with about 15,570.

In terms of total population change, all states surrounding Illinois saw a net increase.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration on Tuesday said the census data “is another indication that shows Illinois needs to grow its economy and create jobs through the structural reforms outlined by Governor Rauner that include a property tax freeze, tort reform and workers’ comp reform.”

“Businesses — especially manufacturers — are ignoring Illinois as a place to grow their companies because of the economic climate,” Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said in an email.

A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said the data from the Census Bureau offered no analysis, and he chose not to offer analysis. A spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said she was studying the data.

David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, said Illinois rugged economic condition is certainly one reason it’s losing population, although not the only one.

For instance, Yepsen said, people should also remember that trends in domestic migration are running from the Midwest and New England toward the South and the West.

Part of that likely translates to job availability, but parts are also likely attributable to better climates and to retiree movement Yepsen said.

But the business and tax climate in Illinois is volatile, Yepsen said, and while “businesses don’t like taxes, they hate uncertainty.”

Tuesday’s data shows that states posting big gains in total net migration included Florida at 332,000; Texas at 271,600; California at 103,500; Washington at 68,700 and North Carolina at 63,200.

In terms of growth by percentage of population, oil-rich North Dakota led the nation by adding an estimated 16,890 residents, or roughly 2.3 percent.

Total population growth for the United States was estimated at 2.51 million. The South showed an increase of roughly 1.39 million people, while the West saw an increase of about 865,600. Smaller gains were reported for the Northeast, about 112,600, and for the Midwest, about 145,300.

The data released Tuesday is from the bureau’s annual estimates on population changes, and the latest report takes into account the period from July 1, 2014, to July 1, 2015.

Last year’s December report indicated Illinois lost nearly 10,000 residents from its population from July 1, 2013, to July 1, 2014. Tuesday’s data showed the Census Bureau bringing that number down to about 7,400.

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