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Decade of decline in population has Illinois legislators looking for change

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(The Center Square) – Illinois has lost 549,000 people in the past decade when adding up the annual population estimates from the U.S. Census, prompting some to look for policy changes to reverse the trend.

The latest numbers released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau shows Illinois’ 10th year of annual losses. In 2013, Illinois’ annual population estimate showed an increase of 12,700. The following year began the decade of decline. In 2014, the state lost an estimated 10,700. In 2015, that more than doubled to 25,000 lost in one year. Another 37,900 were estimated lost in 2016.

The losing trend continued in 2017 with Illinois having 41,800 fewer people than the prior year. In 2018, there were 55,200 fewer people, 57,700 fewer in 2019, 79,500 fewer in 2020, 100,000 fewer in 2021 and more than 107,800 fewer in 2022. For 2023, the U.S. Census shows Illinois lost an additional 32,800 for the year ending July 1, 2023.

Illinois lost a seat in Congress because of continued population after the 2020 Decennial Census. After that Census, the bureau released a post enumeration survey suggesting it overcounted some states and undercounted others, including Illinois by around 2%. Because of that, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other Democratic leaders wrote the U.S. Census asking for the numbers to be revised upward.

“We did a Census in 2020. Turns out, all the American Community Survey, wrong,” Pritzker said in April. “We gained population in the state of Illinois.”

Illinois’ population has not been revised upward. The latest number published by the U.S. Census for Illinois as of July 1, 2023 shows the population at 12,549,689. That’s down from 12,813,469 from April 1, 2020.

After Tuesday’s release of the latest population estimates, state Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, said while agriculture, business and industry are still major drivers for Illinois’ economy, the continued population loss hurts the state.

“Our border states are not suffering to the extent that Illinois is,” Halbrook told The Center Square.

Since 2020, Missouri has gained around 31,300. Indiana gained 27,300. Kentucky gained 22,600. Neighboring Iowa and Wisconsin lost a total of 17,000 combined. Illinois lost more than 364,000 in the last three years.

“The governor says ‘well, you know, this isn’t happening,’ and then he starts making excuses and then he says, ‘well, it’s happening to everybody,’ well it’s not happening to everybody,” Halbrook said. “And whether it’s the winter, or the summers, or whatever it is, it’s really bad policymaking.”

Pritzker’s office didn’t return emails seeking comment.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, said Democratic leaders need to recognize the problem and start getting competitive.

“I think the governor should be looking at our border states and he should be treating this like a business and be very competitive when it relates to policies compared to our border states,” Ford told The Center Square.

Continued funding of education is key, Ford said, but so is tax policy that shouldn’t be burdensome on working families.

“And then you look at property taxes. We are competing with border states that don’t have the same levels of tax levies as Illinois,” Ford said.

On a percentage basis, in the past year, Iowa gained 0.2%. Kentucky, Missouri and Wisconsin were up 0.3%. Indiana was up 0.4%. Illinois was down over the last year by -0.3%, the third worst percentage decline in the country.

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