Illinois suffers population loss

State dropped 45,116 residents, and only New York lost more

Illinoisans attend the Port Byron Tug Fest this summer. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Illinoisans attend the Port Byron Tug Fest this summer. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

Illinois continues to lose residents, according to the latest U.S. Census data released Wednesday.

Illinois lost 45,116 residents over the year ending July 1. Only New York State lost more: 48,510.

Most troubling, however, is that the Illinois population loss is accelerating. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the state’s population rose in the three years after the 2010 Census, when 12,830,682 people lived in Illinois, but slowed and then began a decline in 2014, with each year since seeing an increasing number of residents leaving the state.

Illinois slipped behind Pennsylvania last year to become the sixth-largest state by population, and retained that ranking this year, with 12,741,080 residents to the Keystone State’s 12.8 million. Ohio is seventh with 11.7 million residents.

The news wasn’t entirely awful. True, New York lost a smaller percentage of its population, but West Virginia suffered a much larger drop by percentage, 0.62 percent to 0.35 percent in Illinois.

“Many states have seen fewer births and more deaths in recent years,” said Sandra Johnson, a statistician in the Population Division of the Census Bureau. “If those states are not gaining from either domestic or international migration they will experience either low population growth or outright decline.”

Illinois is one of only three states and Puerto Rico to have lost residents since the 2010 Census, with the others being West Virginia and Connecticut.

Politicians have differed over the cause for the decline. Conservative Republicans blame high taxes and a tough job market, but Democrats counter that it’s been spurred by negativity in the political system and relentless ads emphasizing how bad the state is. Indeed, there’s no question that, although the decline began under Gov. Pat Quinn, it accelerated under Gov. Bruce Rauner. Others have pointed to the exodus of African Americans from Chicago due to gun violence and uneven schooling.

Other census data are more encouraging. The media household income in Illinois is just over $61,000, and the median value of an owner-occupied home is $180,000. Some 88.6 percent of Illinoisans have graduated from high school, and 33,4 percent have a bachelor’s degree. Some 86.7 percent of households have a computer, and 78.4 percent have a broadband internet connection.

The average commute time to work is under a half-hour, at 28.7 minutes.

Nationally, population rose slightly to 327.2 million.