Illinois remains the fifth most populous state—but for how long? - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Illinois remains the fifth most populous state—but for how long?

Cold temperatures always have Illinoisans asking, “Why do we live here?” But it turns out, for some, it’s more than just a flippant remark. New Census data reveals the state's population slumped by almost 10,000 people last year, making it one of only six states to lose population.

Illinois remains the fifth most populous state in the nation. But Pennsylvania—with a growing population—is right on our heels, as Florida surpassed New York State this year to take the title of third most populous state. 

All of Illinois' neighboring states saw their population grow, with Indiana welcoming 26,142 new residents. 

Illinois’ problem is that people are leaving for other states. That’s not a new phenomenon; people move to other states from Illinois every year, but usually not in the droves we saw in 2014. In most years, the rates of births and immigration from other countries are enough to counter that loss. All of our neighboring states saw residents leave for other states too, but their numbers were much smaller.

Almost 95,000 people bid adieu to Illinois last year (see chart below), mostly for Texas and Florida. While you might be tempted to claim the sun and the ocean as unfair advantages, cold North Dakota and Idaho were two of the fastest growing states. Even tundra states like Minnesota and Montana managed to attract more people—4,500 people moved to Montana from other states.  

Population growth is one of the most important factors to growing Illinois' and the Chicago region’s economies. More people means more tax revenues, transit riders, home sales, construction jobs, purchases at local businesses, the list goes on. So what are the implications of population loss? What are other states doing that attract people and business (other than sunny weather) and what does it cost Illinois and the Chicago region because we’re not growing? What if like Florida, Illinois added 803 new residents a day?  Check back in at The Connector next month when we explore the answers.

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