New census data shows that the Greater Chicago lost residents for the fourth year in a row. The national downtrend continues and could jeopardize future federal funding, economic prosperity and political representation of the surviving dependents.
According to the US Census Bureau, which was released on Thursday, the metro in Chicago lost between 2017 and 2018 estimated 22,068 inhabitants. While New York and Los Angeles also contracted, the Chicago area saw a greater decline in both total and percentage terms. The area lost 0.23 percent of the population, more than double the 0.10 percent of New York.
As defined in the census, the Chicago subway area extends from Cook County to its suburbs and includes parts of southeastern Wisconsin and northwest Indiana. Despite the population decline, according to the latest estimates, almost 9.5 million people still live there.
Cook County, which owns the city of Chicago, has returned for the fourth year in a row, with an estimated loss of 24,009 inhabitants or 0.46 percent year on year. While Cook is still the second most populous county in the United States after Los Angeles County, this downtrend has been around since the early 2000s, when the county's population declined by 144,220 for seven consecutive years before beginning to rise again.
Back then, the collar circles – DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Will – added hundreds of thousands as Cook's population shrank. But that is no longer the case, the data show. Population growth in the collars slowed significantly, and the total population of the five counties actually declined from 2017 to 2018.
In the last eight years, the collar circles grew by 38,273 people. In an equivalent period, which ended in 2007 – just before the Great Recession – this gain was more than 11 times greater, with 428,954 more inhabitants calling these counties home.
Last year, there were some growth pockets in the region. The districts of Kendall, Kane, Will, and McHenry recorded modest gains. The districts of DuPage and Lake have lost residents for the third year in a row, totaling 9,539 people between the two districts during that period.
The data released on Thursday only include the number of inhabitants by counties and metropolitan regions. State-by-state data released in December showed that Illinois declined for the fifth year in a row and lost around 45,000 between 2017 and 2018.
While illiteracy coverage of the Illinois population was mainly focused on population emigration, census figures also reflect "natural" gains or losses (births vs. deaths) and the number of people from other countries, states or other nations , In the Chicago area, declining birth rates and stagnant international migration have contributed to residents' move to relocate in recent years.
Census numbers on migration are expressed only as net profit or loss. Cook County's net migration has been negative for at least 27 years, meaning more people are being moved away than being moved to the area. The latest data show that the net migration rate is currently at 8.6 per 1,000 population, although the lowest point in the county was in 2005, when about 13 out of 1,000 were left over.
In the collar of the county since 2011 every year more people have left than set, which reverses the current trend.
The census figures do not explain the many reasons why people from the Chicago area could move out – some have followed or graduated from their employers – but in interviews with the Tribune, former residents who opted to resign gave a litany Reasons These include high taxes, government corruption, crime rates, economic instability, long commuting, rising cost of living and the weather.
Michael Gillam and Mary Green, both originally from Ohio, loved Chicago's skyline, lakeside and dining scene when they lived in the Ravenswood neighborhood in 2015 and 2016, and then lived another year in Naperville, DuPage County.
When the time came to take root, the couple moved to Houston in February 2018 to seek more affordable housing and a warmer climate in one of the country's fastest growing areas.
"We just wanted to move somewhere where our money would continue to expand," said Gillam, 29, software developer. "The real estate market here is fantastic, it explodes. In Illinois, it seems people are leaving. "
Gillam and Green, a 33-year-old trained practical nurse, said they had become uneasy about city crime and instability in the Illinois government, especially after experiencing a two-year state budget cycle that ended in 2017. They are looking to buy a house, fearing that real estate in a neighborhood with declining population would be a bad investment and it would be difficult to sell down the street.
While returning to Chicago for their wedding in the summer of 2021, they have no plans to do so permanently.
"No regrets," Gillam said. "We never looked back."
Not just migration
Escape to other countries is a factor in the population decline in the region, but not the only one.
Some experts point out that the subway region is not attracting enough new arrivals to make up for the emigration. Immigration from other countries has also mitigated the loss of population for a long time, but in recent years the inflow has been less robust according to the census estimates. Meanwhile, the birth rate is slowing nationwide, which means fewer new residents will have to pay for other losses.
Take Cook County as an example. From 2017 to 2018, according to the census, there were more births (63,850) than deaths (43,455), leading to a "natural increase". Over the same period, Cook recorded a net increase of 18,796 people from other countries. (The census includes American troops and civilians returning to the United States in this census.)
However, both gains failed to offset the net loss of 63,339 on domestic migration. Taken together, they cause a total loss of more than 24,000 people.
In the western suburb of Kane County, the picture looks different, with thousands of babies contributing to the growth of the population. Kane saw an estimated 6,516 births last year, enough to compensate for a net migration loss of 2,011 people and 3,446 deaths.
From 2017 to 2018, Kane recorded the highest natural growth rate in the region, which represents a combined birth and death rate of about 6 people per 1,000 population. Although Kanes birth rate has declined over the years – reflecting the rest of the state – he is still the highest among the suburbs in northeastern Illinois, with 12.2 births per 1,000 population.
These trends surprised Tara Burghart, who is on the city council of Geneva in the west of the city and runs the blog "Go West Young Mom", a hyper-local website for parents in the Kane County area.
Burghart believes that the county tends to attract young families with great schools, libraries, thriving park districts, and cheaper housing compared to other parts of the region.
"And people may feel they have more physical space and maybe economic space to have another child," she said.
Living in Geneva, Amanda Pauli agreed that it was a great place for raising children – but that's not enough to keep them around. Her family plans to move to Michigan in June, near the city she grew up in and near relatives.
Pauli said they currently pay around $ 1,000 a month in property taxes, as opposed to $ 450 a month they expect to pay in Michigan. You will also live on a lake in a wooded area, with more opportunities for cycling, hiking and skiing.
"The two biggest things are the family and the cost of living," said Pauli, mother of two school-age children. "And the free part of it. We really miss that. "
Your family will join one side of the net migration calculation, those who go. However, some experts say that the focus should also be on attracting new people to the region.
"We do not have a particularly high churn rate, but few people come here relative to the rest of the country," said Daniel Kay Hertz, research director at the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.
Based on figures from the 2015 American Community Survey conducted by the US Census, his agency found that Illinois is in the middle of the pack nationwide in terms of the rate of people leaving the state in terms of the rate of people leaving the state.
The potential reasons why people do not move to Illinois should be part of the conversation, Hertz said.
"The stories surrounding the state issue can influence people's choices," Hertz said. "And those in Illinois are really very negative in a way that, in my opinion, exaggerated some of the problems relative to other places."
44-year-old Jody Cameron, who came to Chicago from Dallas in November 2016 for a position in the Radiology Administration, said he was glad he had taken the step.
While he found the cost of living in Texas much lower overall – there is no state income tax and less parking fees due to more open space – he said his salary had increased by 50 percent because his education was more in demand here.
He appreciates the diversity of Chicago, restaurants, cultural opportunities and sporting events and feels no less secure than in Dallas. When he releases pictures of snow on social media, friends in Texas comment that they are jealous. He does not fail to burn hot summers.
"The people here are like, why would you move here?" Said Cameron, who lives in the neighborhood of Logan Square. "Because people think the grass is greener elsewhere. In my view, there are pros and cons of every place. "
Consequences of change
Chicago's population loss coincides with another decline in Illinois, which lost its place as the nation's fifth largest state in Pennsylvania in 2017.
Out of 102 counties in Illinois, only 16 registered population growth between 2017 and 2018, and only eleven net profits so far have been recorded in that decade, said Brian Harger, a senior scientist at Northern Illinois University's Center for Governmental Studies.
After several decades of modest growth, the state population began to decline after 2013. Since then, it has a net loss of more than 138,000 people. Growth in the Chicago area and a few downstates were enough to offset losses elsewhere. However, this has not been the case in recent years, he said.
"The Chicago area did not work that well either," Harger said. "There were only a few counties on the periphery where the population had grown, and their profits were pretty modest."
Downstate metro areas – Counties with a population of at least 50,000, such as Moline in the four-cities, Peoria and Bloomington, suffer similarly high net immigration deficits, which have brought down the population gain.
Between 2001 and 2007, 144,089 inhabitants were added to the subterranean subways, mainly due to increases in migration. In the last seven years, these areas have lost one third of this profit, about 43,000 people.
The rural districts of the state have been losing their livelihoods since 1997, as the deaths of residents exceed births and take more people out than they do.
While many experts are deploring population declines, Chicago Demographic Democrat Rob Paral surveyed recent numbers from Cook County, stating that "there is no cause for concern and no cause for concern."
Because Cook is such a large county, the number of residents is less important than the percentage change, he said. Cook County's population rose for several years after 2010, Paral said. While the decline since 2015 has been recorded, the percentage decline is minimal.
The loss of population should be monitored, he said. He does not believe in a crisis in Cook County.
"There is no mass exodus," he said. "I think that's important, because for many years there was a fear that the county would speed up the loss, but that's not what we see. People used the loss of population here … as a catch to hang their favorite problem. They would say that it was because of taxes or out of this and that. But the numbers do not really support the idea that we have a serious problem. "
Other experts warn that the consequences of a prolonged loss of population could be bleak.
At least $ 34 billion in federal funding for Illinois direct support programs is linked to the upcoming 2020 Census, according to a recent report by the George Washington University Institute of Public Policy. Population loss could mean less money. Illinois is also risking the loss of up to two mandates in Congress if that count shows population decline enough once in a decade, with implications for long-term political representation, according to a report by the Illinois Complete Count Commission.
The population loss in the Chicago area is particularly worrying in terms of the region's economy, said Aseal Tineh, Associate Political Analyst at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.
"We talk a lot about how demographic trends and population change are a condition and consequence of economic prosperity," she said. "If we see a population decline, it may indicate how well the economy is suited to individuals and communities. But the opposite is true. With the loss of the population, we also lose the human capital and our workforce. And that concerns the growth of the regional economy. So the concern is in both directions. "
Norman Walzer, senior researcher at NIU's Center for Governmental Studies, who has spent nearly 50 years studying rural economies and public finances, noted that these parts of the state are already struggling with poor access to health care. Walzer explains that the shrinking population also weighs on municipal finances.
Population decline can disrupt the social fabric of the most affected communities, especially when shops are closed and local schools close or merge, said Kathleen Cagney, director of the University of Chicago's Population Research Center.
An aging population with less growth and stagnant birth rates is shifting the economic burden more to younger workers, she added.
"You have to think about something called dependency," she said. "The number of people on the job market is lower than those in need of support. As people live longer, many of these people are not fully engaged in the labor market. So you have a population that needs support and fewer people to help. "
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