Population loss felt across state

Only 16 of 102 Illinois counties gained population in latest U.S. Census report

Government mismanagement of public housing in Cairo no doubt played a part in the 3.5 percent population loss in Alexander County. (One Illinois/Zachary Sigelko)

Government mismanagement of public housing in Cairo no doubt played a part in the 3.5 percent population loss in Alexander County. (One Illinois/Zachary Sigelko)

By Ted Cox

Illinois’s previously reported population loss was felt across the state, according to the latest data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The bureau reported in December that Illinois lost 45,116 residents over the year ending July 1, 2018. New data released Thursday found that loss was felt across the state, with only 16 of 102 counties reporting gains.

The greater metropolitan Chicago area lost 22,068 residents over that time, to arrive at a population just under 9.5 million, but that includes areas of northwest Indiana and southeast Wisconsin. Cook County alone lost 24,009 residents, most of any Illinois county, but by percentage of population it placed more in the middle with a decline of 0.5 percent.

Alexander County at the southern tip of Illinois lost 242 residents, but that was 3.5 percent of the 6,302 residents estimated in July 2017, the largest loss by percentage in the state. The federal mismanagement of public housing in Cairo — which Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson dismissed as “a dying community” in 2017 — no doubt played a prominent role in that decline.

Most of Chicago’s collar counties also suffered losses. DuPage and Lake counties both lost population for the third year in a row. Both lost just just over 2,000 residents, which accounted for 0.3 percent of the Lake County population and 0.2 percent in DuPage.

But the more distant collar counties are the ones that registered the strongest growth by percentage of population. Kendall County gained 1,643 residents, an increase of 1.3 percent, followed in the top five by Will, Kane, McHenry, and Grundy counties.

Other counties that actually gained population last year included Boone, Clinton, Effingham, Jasper, Johnson, Menard, Monroe, Moultrie, Pope, Putnam, and Washington.

For the most part, the state has actually sustained population since the 2010 Census. It gained population the first few years of the decade, before beginning a decline in 2014 that has only accelerated. Over the first eight years of the decade, Illinois lost 90,492 residents, 0.7 percent of its 2010 population of 12.8 million.

But some counties suffered mightily over that time span. Again, Alexander County led by percentage, losing more than a quarter of the 8,238 residents counted in 2010 — 2,178 people, or 26.4 percent. Other counties suffering double-digit drops by percentage over those eight years included Pulaski (11.3) and Cass (10.1).

Kendall County was the only one to sustain double-digit growth over that span, adding 13,112 residents, an 11.4 percent increase on its 2010 population of 114,803.

All metropolitan areas across the state lost population in the year ending last July 1, with Danville’s 1.2 percent decline ranking fourth nationwide in largest population drop by percentage, a category led by Charleston, W.Va., at 1.6 percent. In Illinois, worst population declines by region were felt across the central-western parts of the state, with drops of more than 0.6 percent.

The New York City and Los Angeles metro areas also lost population last year, but Chicago’s drop was larger both in the number of people moving out and by percentage, losing 0.23 percent compared to the 0.1 percent in New York.