By: John Klingner
New U.S. Census Bureau data shows Illinois has cemented its place as the nation’s extreme outlier in population losses. The state’s population fell by nearly 80,000 in 2020, making this the 7th year in a row Illinois’ population has shrunk. Only Connecticut and West Virginia share that distinction with Illinois.
When measured since 2010, the Prairie State’s population has dropped by 250,000, the most of any state in the country. Only six states nationally have fallen in population since 2010.
It’s too early to tell from the net numbers – the full Census data set comes out in February – but 2020 was likely a strange demographic year due to the impact of COVID-19. Sixteen states, more than usual, lost population this year.
Here are the key facts you need to know:
1. Illinois’ population fell by nearly 80,000 in 2020, the 2nd-most in the nation. Only New York lost more people. The biggest winners of population are the same states that have been winning the competition for people: Texas, Florida and Arizona, among others. Texas gained over 370,000 people alone.
2. Illinois had the nation’s 2nd-worst loss as a percentage of population at 0.63%. Only New York lost a greater percentage of people. States like Idaho, Arizona and Nevada, on the other hand, grew by more than 1.50% on the year.
3. Overall, Illinois shrunk the most of any state in the nation between 2010 and 2020. There are now 250,000 fewer people in Illinois today than in 2010. Illinois is one of only six states to lose population over the decade, along with West Virginia, New York, Connecticut, Mississippi and Vermont.
In contrast, Florida has gained nearly 2.9 million people and Texas has added a whopping 4.1 million to its population since 2010.
Overall, Illinois has lost 2 percent of its 2010 population. Only West Virginia has shrunk more, with 3.7 percent of its population lost.
4. Illinois has lost population seven years in a row. Cumulatively, the state has lost over 308,000 people since 2014. That’s the equivalent of losing the entire population of both Rockford and Naperville.
5. Illinois’ neighbors are gaining population. Almost all of Illinois’ neighboring states, including cold-weather ones like Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana gained population in 2020. Only Michigan, which is experiencing a malaise of its own, shrunk along with Illinois.
6. Cold weather is not to blame for the state’s ills. Overall, Illinois has lost 2 percent of its population since 2010. And while Illinois has shrunk seven years in a row, every one of its neighbors experienced positive growth compared to 2010.
Think whatever you want about why, but Illinois’ brand of politics and policy is being categorically rejected year after year by far too many residents.
Until the state’s policies are flipped on their head – until Illinoisans finally get the big spending and governance reforms they desperately need – expect many more to uproot their lives to find opportunities elsewhere.