Illinois’ population has grown over the past decade, census shows

Brooke Landrum came to Chicago from Cincinnati in 2016 to attend Loyola University, and after graduating she decided to stay and settle in the bustling Lakeview neighborhood.

That put Landrum among the influx of newcomers that helped Illinois’ population grow by an estimated 250,000 between 2010 and 2020, an update says. census figures released Thursday. The new estimate contrasts with the oft-expressed belief that the state is hemorrhaging and matches what Landrum, a 23-year-old market research analyst, experienced on the North Side.

“I’m looking for an apartment right now and all decent apartments are taken within 24 hours,” she said. “It’s so fast. It’s not a sign that people are leaving.

The U.S. Census Bureau initially found that Illinois had lost about 18,000 people over the previous decade, which was the first time the numbers showed that Illinois’ overall population had declined since joining the US. union in 1818. But after a follow-up survey — something that happens after every US population count once a decade — he found that the state’s population numbers had likely been understated.

Last year’s census results showing population decline underscored a major claim, made mostly by Republicans seeking to criticize Democratic government leaders in Illinois, that people are fleeing the state in part to because of high taxes and crime. The news that there was in fact a population increase had Democrats running for their keyboards to trumpet the gain.

“These latest numbers from the US Census Bureau show that Illinois is now a booming state with a growing population,” Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker said in a statement. “…I look forward to celebrating this development with all Illinoisans, including those who regularly disparage our state.”

In a post on Twitter, Democratic House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside said it was time for members of the Republican Party to “start speaking the truth.”

“People actually find Illinois to be a place to live, work and play,” Welch wrote. “The numbers show it.”

But some experts say celebrating a modest increase is as short-sighted as lamenting a slight drop. Despite being the population capital of the Midwest with a new estimate of about 13 million people, Illinois still lost a congressional seat after the census, and the state continues to struggle. of emigration, keeping it in a demographic dilemma compared to other parts of the country.

“Our problem is that we’re not growing as fast as places like Florida and Texas,” said Cynthia Buckley, a sociology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “When we think about (Congress’s) distribution, we have to think about our growth relative to other states.”

Illinois was the only Midwestern state to be underrated, while two other Midwestern states — Minnesota and Ohio — were likely overrated, the survey found. Other underrated states were Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. In addition to Minnesota and Ohio, the other six states that likely have fewer residents than originally recorded were Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Utah, according to the survey.

The estimate that Illinois’ population was understated by 1.97%, or about 250,000, was the midpoint provided in the survey. The population could have been underestimated as high as 440,000 people, or 3.43%, or as low as 65,000 people, or 0.51%, according to the survey.

While the census slowdown reported last year gave the GOP something to brag about and the increase indicated in last week’s survey gave Democrats a good talking point, what will be the practical significance of new numbers?

Illinois lost a seat in Congress, and that won’t change. In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled statistical sampling data cannot be used to redistribute Congress. But heads of state will likely try to use the undercount to mobilize federal officials to secure more funding over the next decade – whether that actually happens remains to be seen.

Buckley said the upward adjustment comes as no surprise, given the difficult conditions of the 2020 census. Not only did this take place during the early months of the pandemic, but some potential respondents were alarmed by the Trump administration’s insistence on a citizenship issue, she said.

This question, which some interpreted as an attempt to intimidate immigrants into keeping quiet, was never included in the census form. But Brandon Lee of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, which has worked to spur the census response, said it had a clear impact.

“We noticed that whenever the (citizenship issue) came up in a lawsuit or whenever Trump said something about the census or the citizenship issue, our community partners received questions from people filling out the form,” said he declared. “It had an effect. This probably led some people not to complete the form.

The updated census figures are not accompanied by demographic or geographic specificity, so it is not certain who the new residents are or where they have settled. But Jay Young, executive director of Common Cause Illinois, said the growing parts of the state are obvious — these are urban neighborhoods such as West Loop and some communities in Chicago’s Pass Counties.

At the same time, he said, it’s clear other areas have lost population, including rural counties, the eastern metro area near St. Louis, and the south and west sides of Chicago.

“We will continue to see contraction (in some areas) but the state is growing,” he said. “These suburban metropolitan areas seem to be keeping our population growth positive.”

Although the flight of disgruntled expats has been well-documented, Buckley said investigations suggest Illinois taxes are not driving the exodus.

“Tax rates alone won’t be what tempts you to move to Indiana,” she said. “If people were really fleeing Illinois because of taxes, we would see a much bigger drop in our population.”

Likewise, while the violence has unquestionably driven some out of town, several newcomers say it hasn’t made them doubt their move.

Sophie Gordon, 26, a St. Louis native who came to Chicago in 2019 via New York, lives a few blocks from the Near North Side McDonald’s which was the site of Thursday’s mass shooting that left two dead and seven wounded. But she said she felt confident that she could avoid danger.

“I don’t fear for my life walking my dog,” she said. “…There are definitely pros and cons (to living in Chicago), but I’ve found that the pros outweigh the cons.”

Market researcher Brandon Nworjih, 23, came to Chicago from Long Island, New York, and said his worries about crime were quickly overcome by the positive attributes of his new hometown, including its affordability.

“I couldn’t have gotten a condo in New York,” said Nworjih, who lives in Uptown. “I shouted to my friends in New York to come.”

Carla Faustino, 30, who grew up in Palos Heights, went against the grain when she returned to the Chicago area last year from fast-growing Austin, Texas. Now living in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood, she said her cost of living hasn’t really changed.

While she now pays state income tax — Texas has none — she also pays less in rent and car expenses. She faces fewer toll roads and service fees in Illinois, she said, and government services, such as getting a driver’s license, work more smoothly here, a- she declared.

“(Texas) sounds really great on paper, but when you live there, it doesn’t add up,” she said.

Buckley said rural Illinois could one day see its own population jump due to global developments, particularly the war in Ukraine, which has destabilized much of the world’s food supply.

Illinois agricultural counties may soon need more workers and subsidiary companies to take over, she said, and if that happens, it will demonstrate that population changes can come from forces much stronger than the machinations of local politics.

“(The influx) will not be because of Pritzker,” she said. “It will be because of Putin.”

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