Census: Champaign Co. Gains 12%; Losses in Cook, Most Other Downstate Counties

February 15, 2011

(Additional material from The Associated Press)

Champaign and Urbana were two cities in downstate Illinois seeing a rare population boom over the last ten years. But population losses in Cook County and most of the rest of downstate Illinois slowed the growth in the state's population to 3.3% from 2000 through 2010, according to figures released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The city of Champaign saw more than 13,000 new residents move in since 2000, a 20% jump to 81,055 people. Urbana's population grew 13.3% to 41,250.

Champaign County overall saw a 11.9% population increase - it's now the state's tenth-most populous county at 201,081.

County Regional Planning Commission director Cameron Moore says the numbers determine government funding, legislative representation and a host of other factors.

"It helps you plan better in terms of land use, what types of transportation improvements do we need, are we going to have enough housing stock to accommodate our growth; if not, how do we plan for that," said Moore. "It's really critical in all aspects of looking at the future of any community."

Champaign and McLean counties fared better than many other downstate counties in the latest census figures. The city of Danville lost about 2.6% of its population while Decatur is down about 7%.

The state's population grew modestly from about 12.4 million to 12.8 million people, down from a growth rate of 8.7 percent the previous decade, the bureau said in a release of detailed statewide 2010 census data for Illinois. The overall population figures were made public in December.

Illinois' slowing growth will cost the state a congressional seat.

Much of the state's population growth was in counties that surround Chicago, such as Kendall County where the population more than doubled as well as downstate counties such as McLean and Champaign, with heavily white-collar economies.

And, while the state's populations of both whites and blacks decreased, the population of people who identified themselves as Hispanic grew at a sharp 32.5 percent rate.

"The state essentially owes its demographic sustainability to Latinos, Asians and immigrants," said Rob Paral, a Chicago-based demographer. "They permit the state to overcome a lot of depopulation."

The state had 2.03 million Hispanic residents in 2010, up from 1.53 million in 2000. In all, 15.8 percent of Illinois' residents identified themselves as Hispanic - a category that can include whites, black and other racial categories.

The city of Chicago and Cook County both saw population drops through the decade, and those increases could have been sharper had the recession not slowed migration out of heavily urban areas since 2007.

"Populations sort of got frozen in place by the recession, partially because of jobs, partially because they couldn't sell houses, partially because it made people who might have moved more cautious," said Kenneth Johnson, a University of New Hampshire demographer who previously worked at Loyola University in Chicago for more than 20 years.

Chicago's population decreased by nearly 7 percent since the 2000 Census. It's now nearly 2.7 million, down from nearly 2.9 million.

Cook County's population dwindled to just below 5.2 million, down by 3.4 percent since 2000.

The strongest growth was in counties around Cook County, such as Lake (whose population grew by 9.2 percent), Will (up 34.9 percent) and Kane (up 27.5 percent), according to the census. Other strong growth counties included DeKalb, whose population grew 18 percent, and McLean County, where the population grew 12.7 percent.

Experts believe some of the suburban increases were due to the movement of Hispanics into those counties, some directly from abroad.

Illinois' population of whites dropped 3 percent to 8.42 million. And the state's black population dropped 1.3 percent to 1.83 million.

Even though the state's population increased, Illinois will still lose a congressional seat. Census figures are used to reapportion the House's 435 districts to make them roughly equal in population, with each state getting at least one seat.

The South and West had bigger population surges, so Texas gains four new seats. Illinois and nine other states lost seats.

Story source: WILL