Moving vans leave Illinois at over 9‑times rate of other Midwestern states
Illinois suffered the largest population decline in the Midwest and of neighboring states during 2021.
Illinois suffered its 8th consecutive year of population decline, a record-setting year that can be squarely blamed on people moving out of the state, according to estimates released Dec. 21 by the U.S. Census Bureau. 2021 saw the largest number of Illinoisans leaving on net in recorded history.
Illinois’ population declined by 113,776 from July 1, 2020, through July 1, 2021. No other Midwestern or neighbor state saw a population decline of more than 17,000.
Not only was Illinois’ experience with overall population decline much more severe than peer states, the sole driver of Illinois’ population decline also stood out. There were 122,460 Illinoisans on net fleeing to other states in 2021, over 9 times the number of residents who left Minnesota, the next closest state in terms of domestic outmigration.
People leaving for other states also hurt population totals in Ohio, Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota and Michigan.
International migration was a boon to state populations during 2021, several states saw population growth strained by deaths outpacing births during the year. Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Missouri and Wisconsin all experienced “natural decreases” in their state population.
While Illinois has been fortunate to continue to experience “natural increases” in population as births continue to outpace deaths, the gap between the two has been narrowing historically and international migration rates into the state have varied widely. Domestic migration will be vitally important to reversing Illinois’ population decline.
Traditionally, the major reasons Illinoisans are choosing to leave the state are for better housing and employment opportunities, both of which have been made worse by poor public policy in Illinois. Nearly half of Illinoisans have thought about moving away, and they said taxes were their No. 1 reason. Population decline also contributes to the lower economic prospects of the state.
It remains unclear to what extent these factors contributed to Illinoisans moving out of state from 2020 – 2021. Other factors such as pandemic-related job losses, school closures and government mandates could also be to blame.
Census data does confirm Illinois’ outmigration-driven population decline has reached record levels and is more of a problem now than ever. Regardless of the cause, the desire to leave Illinois needs to go away for the state population to one day grow again.