Illinois has often been the topic of many internet jokes. The residents, past and present, make memes, songs, and Facebook groups about how horrible it is to live here and how they can’t wait to leave. What seemed like empty promises are actually becoming realistic population trends, as Illinois has faced a staggering declining population since 2014. In fact, Illinois ranks 49 out of 50 in net migration losses, falling only second behind Alaska. I have my own suspicions as to the factors contributing to this. However, official census data has been analyzed in recent years to put some science behind the uptick in fleeing residents.
According to recent data collected by demographers, more people are leaving Illinois each year than there are people moving into the state. The net migration, a loss or gain of residents moving in vs residents moving out, was at an alarming 6.5 people lost for every 1,000 residents in 2018. This number has doubled in just 5 years. It was found that it is not necessarily the number of residents leaving the state that is the issue, but more so the lack of people wanting to move into the states. In the past decade, only 9 of Illinois’ 102 counties have seen a positive rise in population.
Illinois has quickly earned a reputation as a state with astronomical taxes, and it appears that these taxes are always on the rise. Many residents are quickly realizing that the end of ridiculous payments is not in sight, and they can no longer afford to live in the state. For those living in the large cities of Illinois, like Chicago, or the bigger counties, like Cook, the motivation to evacuate is often that of preference. Finding affordable housing that checks off more must-haves – like a large backyard, off-street parking, or a bigger floorplan – could require a move to the suburbs of Indiana.
In fact, Indiana is the most common state that people are fleeing to when they decide to make the move to a more prosperous life. Wisconsin, Missouri, and Michigan are some of the other Midwestern states who are reaping the wealth of residents moving from Illinois. Moving right across the state border is a small step to take to make the changes that many Illinois residents feel they are forced to do. Leaving behind a woefully inept state government and lackluster schooling system are just bonus incentives for those who are finally saying farewell to Illinois.
But that’s not all. College students leaving for out-of-state schools is another component in the out-migration equation; one largely overlooked. Despite an ever-so-slight uptick this school year for some in-state colleges and universities, Illinois high school graduates have been leaving Illinois for out-of-state colleges for many years at increasing rates … with many never to return. This continuing trend coupled with a noticeably reduced number of birth rates is problematic for Illinois. So, what to do about this accelerating out-migration problem? That is the likely subject of a later post, but I will humbly suggest that Illinois would do better if it lessened its onerous taxing and regulating and became a pro-business state, one known for growth and prosperity opportunities.