For first time, population in all Illinois’ metro areas declines

Illinois metro population
According to an updated report from the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly all of Illinois' largest metropolitan areas declined in population since 2017. (Stevens Worldwide Van Lines courtesy photo)

SPRINGFIELD/WASHINGTON (Illinois News Network) — U.S. Census data released Thursday showed the population in every one of Illinois’ metropolitan areas declined in the past year for the first time.

The Chicago metropolitan area, which includes suburban cities and portions of Wisconsin and Indiana, reported the largest population decrease in the nation, shrinking by an estimated 22,068 people. That represents 0.23 percent of the area’s total population of about 9.5 million people.

Population in the Danville area shrank by 1.26 percent, representing an estimated 970 people. Nationally, only three other communities saw a bigger percentage decline. It also marked Danville’s largest decrease in population in recent years, the next highest being a loss of 778 in 2014.

The largely industrial area has seen declines in economic output in both 2016 and 2017, according to Moody’s Data Analytics.

Mayor Ricky Williams Jr. wasn’t immediately available for comment Wednesday.

Other metropolitan areas that saw population losses included Decatur (821), Springfield, (1,539), Carbondale (590), Kankakee (520), Rockford (594) and the Bloomington-Normal area (157).

“The people leaving are mostly prime working age between 25 and 54,” said Bryce Hill, research analyst with the Illinois Policy Institute. “They’re looking for work and a place to start a family.”

Champaign-Urbana, which has historically seen growth, saw a population loss of 234 people.

The only listed micropolitan area in Illinois that reported population growth was Effingham, gaining 61 people from 2017’s figures.

Those who leave Illinois often move to southern, low-tax states such as Florida and Texas. But others have moved to Indiana, other neighboring states and Tennessee, according to previous reports from the Internal Revenue Service.

The Census figures released Thursday don’t show where residents went; only population change.

At the county level, 86 of Illinois’ 102 counties lost people.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s revenue projections for his progressive tax plan assumed the state’s population would stay flat until 2021. His administration has projected the governor’s progressive income tax would bring in an additional $3.4 billion in revenue. Population declines could make those estimates less accurate.

Population losses mean fewer taxpayers, thus a smaller pool to draw that promised revenue from, Hill said.

Pritkzer’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment on the Census figures.

As a whole, Illinois’ population fell by more than 45,000 in the 12 months ending in July.

Illinois has had five consecutive years for population declines.

Reporting by Cole Lauterbach

Illinois News Network and their reporters represent Illinois as the taxpayers' watchdog, exposing the way government really works in Springfield.

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