Illinois’ youth and working-age professionals are leaving in greater numbers than other age groups, including retirees, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.
U.S. Census information shows the state's population declined by 45,000 people in the year ending last July.
New data released Thursday showed that Illinois’ population losses were primarily attributed to people younger than 65. Nearly every age bracket from children under five to adults age 55-60 lost population.
The largest total population decrease was among Illinoisans age 50-54, which fell by an estimated 25,313 people.
“You have higher levels of people leaving the state than you have people entering the state,” said Sandy Johnson, a program analyst at the U.S. Census Bureau. “That contributes to the population decline at these younger ages.”
The numbers reflect the net changes of immigration into and out of the state, aging into and out of a specific bracket, and deaths at any age. The positive numbers above 65 in Illinois are in line with the general aging of the American population, showing increasing numbers greater than the number of residents in those age groups that either die or leave the state.
The Census found that most counties in the Midwest have been getting younger, but Johnson said the median age increased in almost all counties in Illinois.
“Within Illinois, there were only four counties that had a decrease in median age between 2010 and 2018,” she said. “This is in opposition to what we’re seeing in other midwest states.”
Contrary to his predecessor, Gov. J.B. Pritzker doesn’t often touch on Illinois’ population losses. However, he has blamed the state’s flat tax and public education funding cuts for those declines.
Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, in announcing state money to ensure an accurate Census count, touched on the consequences of Illinois’ population losses and the consequences of continued population losses or undercounts.
“Illinois could lose $121 million every single year just by missing one percent of the population,” she said.
In a break from some other state and local officials, newly-minted Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot told WTTW that the years of population losses must be addressed before the city can right its fiscal ship.
“The fact that we are the only metropolitan area in the country that is losing population ought to be the proverbial canary in the mine shaft,” she said. “And yet, there doesn’t seem to be any urgency around that.”
Politifact noted that Lightfoot likely misspoke, meaning Chicago proper is the only major city in the nation to lose population last year.