The 21st Show

Population Loss In Illinois


A pedestrian walks past a block of new rowhouses on Chicago's North Side, Wednesday, March 14, 2001. U.S. Census Bureau figures released Wednesday show that Chicago grew in population, increasing 112,290 from 1990, driven by an explosion in the Hispanic community. While Chicago gained in population, most large northern U.S. cities lost population. Fred Jewell/Associated Press

If you’ve been living in Illinois for a while, you’ve probably seen the occasional headline about the so-called ‘Illinois exodus’ -- our residents picking up and leaving the state for places like Indiana, or maybe warmer climates like Florida or Texas. 

According to the latest estimate from the Census Bureau, Illinois’ population decreased by more than 51,000 people in 2019. That’s the sixth consecutive year of decline.  The numbers might seem a little startling, but how concerned should we really be about our state’s population loss? 

Cindy Buckley is a demographer and sociology professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and part of The Census Project, a watchdog organization supporting a fair and accurate 2020 U.S. Census count. She joined us to help put the latest numbers into perspective. Mary Hansen, a reporter for NPR Illinois in Springfield, also joined us. Mary has been reporting on efforts to get an accurate Census count in the state, especially in rural communities.  

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