State losing young workers in record numbers
Calling it a sign of economic and political crises, the Illinois Policy Institute said the state is losing residents much faster than its neighbors.
"The Land of Lincoln is losing one person to out-migration every five minutes," Michael Lucci, vice president of policy at the institute, wrote recently in a blog post. "This rate is so rapid, it has caused the state’s population to shrink two years in a row, while the population of every other state in the region has grown.”
In December, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that Illinois lost 105,000 more people to out-migration than it gained between July 2014 and July 2015. Illinois' total population shrank during that time by 22,000 people. A year earlier, Illinois lost 95,000 people to other states. Between 1991 and 2013, that figure fluctuated but never surpassed 80,000 people.
Similar to other states, Illinois saw more births than deaths and gained residents through international immigration. Taking out-migration out of the picture, the state's population would have grown by about 80,000.
Lucci said the problem is often downplayed because it’s been the normal state of things in Illinois for a long time. But he added that “these commenters ignore the rarity and magnitude of Illinois’ problem. Illinois’ current out-migration is fundamentally different when compared with out-migration in previous years and from other states.”
For one, the state is seeing the fastest out-migration rate ever recorded, driven by working-age adults, with millennials taking the lead.
As a percentage of population, Illinois’ out-migration rate is the highest in the country.
Between April 2010 and July 2015, Illinois lost the equivalent of 3.3 percent of its population to out-migration, while Michigan, Kansas and Ohio lost 1.9, 1.8 and 1.3 percent, respectively, U.S. Census data reported. Other neighbors, including Missouri, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kentucky and Iowa, lost less than 1 percent of their population to out-migration over the same five-year period, which is below the regional average of 1.4 percent. South Dakota and North Dakota saw gains equivalent to 1.3 and 7.8 percent, respectively.
After adjusting for population differences, Illinois’ five-year rate is between 3.6 times the rate of Wisconsin and 14 times the rate of Iowa, Lucci said.
Illinois remains the most populous state in the region — and fifth in the country. But Ohio and Pennsylvania are catching up, with Pennsylvania on track to equal Illinois in total population just after the 2020 census — a fact that isn't so much praise for Pennsylvania as its population is growing only barely.
Michigan and Ohio are examples of nearby states whose out-migration trends shifted to immigration when they added jobs. Lucci said Illinois lawmakers should reverse course on tax, spending and regulatory practices to promote growth and attract more people to the state.
“Illinois’ out-migration is far worse than any other state in the region and is clear evidence that legislative leaders have created a comparatively unattractive, anti-growth state,” Lucci said. “The top goal of state policy leaders should be to make Illinois a state that grows again. Poor policy decisions have threatened Illinois’ prospects for a vibrant future, which is reflected in the state’s diminished population.”