Five Charts That Show Who’s Leaving Illinois And Why

A pile of charts
A pile of charts

Five Charts That Show Who’s Leaving Illinois And Why

In 2019, the population in Illinois fell for the sixth year in a row, according to new census estimates released last week.

The estimates show that the primary reason for the state’s declining population has been the growing number of people leaving Illinois for other states.

WBEZ analyzed other census data — responses to the American Community Survey and the Current Population Survey — to get a better handle on who’s actually leaving Illinois and why.

WBEZ examined that data in two periods: from 2009 to 2013, when the population in Illinois was growing, and the years since 2014, when the state’s population declined each year.

An estimated 1,628,866 people left Illinois for other states from 2014 to 2018, according to the WBEZ analysis. That’s up 15.6% from the number that left the state from 2009 to 2013.

Here’s a breakdown of what we learned about the characteristics of Illinois residents moving to other states and their reasons for leaving:

The number of Asian/Pacific Islanders who left Illinois is up 21%

Most people who left the state from 2014 to 2018 were white. But the racial demographic with the biggest increase in the number of people leaving was Asian/Pacific Islanders — that number jumped 21% from what it was from 2009 to 2013.

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There was a sharp increase in the number of older people who left

Most people who left Illinois from 2009 to 2013 were between the ages of 20 and 34. That was also the case from 2014 to 2018. The number of 20- to 34-year olds who left Illinois increased by 13.21%. But the percentages of people in older age groups leaving Illinois jumped even more between those five-year periods. For individuals 65 years or older, the number leaving Illinois increased by almost 50%.

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The number of college-educated people who left jumped by almost a third

Most of the people who left Illinois did not have a college degree, but the total number of people with college degrees leaving the state grew faster between 2009-2013 and 2014-2018.

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There were bigger changes in the number of higher-income people leaving than low-income people leaving

Similar numbers of people from low-, middle-, and high-income households were leaving Illinois from 2014 to 2018. But compared to their totals from 2009 to 2013, the numbers of people from middle-income and high-income households jumped far more than the number of people from low-income households.

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So why are people are leaving?

A separate survey asked people their reasons for moving — and the answers varied depending on whether people moved within Illinois or moved out of the state.

Among those who moved out of Illinois from 2009 to 2019, more people moved for job-related reasons. For those moving within the state, most did so for housing-related reasons.

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Alden Loury is the senior editor of WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow him @AldenLoury.