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  1. #1
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
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    Chicago area drops population for fourth straight year

    Chicago area drops population for fourth straight year, census data show; Cook, DuPage and Lake counties also decline

    Cecilia Reyes and Angie Leventis Lourgos Contact Reporters Chicago Tribune

    New census data show the Chicago area lost population for the fourth consecutive year, continuing a statewide trend of decline that could threaten future federal funding, economic prosperity and political representation for those left behind.

    The metro Chicago area lost an estimated 22,068 residents from 2017 to 2018, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Thursday. While New York and Los Angeles also shrank, the Chicago region saw bigger decreases both in total numbers and in percent change; the area lost 0.23 percent of its population, more than twice New York’s 0.10 percent.

    As defined by the census, the Chicago metro area stretches from Cook County to its suburbs and includes parts of southeast Wisconsin and northwest Indiana. Despite the population decline, it is still home to nearly 9.5 million people, according to the latest estimates.

    Cook County, which includes the city of Chicago, declined in population for the fourth year in a row, with an estimated loss of 24,009 residents or 0.46 percent from the previous year. While Cook is still the second most populous county in the United States, after Los Angeles County, it’s on a downward trend unseen since the early 2000s, when the county’s population decreased by 144,220 over seven straight years before beginning to rise again.

    Back then, the collar counties — DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Will — were adding hundreds of thousands of people as Cook’s population dwindled. But that’s no longer the case, the data show. The population growth in the collars has been slowing considerably, and the total population in the five counties actually decreased from 2017 to 2018.
    Over the past eight years, the collar counties grew by 38,273 people. In an equivalent time period ending in 2007 — just before the Great Recession — that gain was more than 11 times as large, with 428,954 more residents calling these counties home.
    There were a few pockets of growth in the area in the last year; Kendall, Kane, Will and McHenry counties all saw modest gains. But DuPage and Lake counties have each lost residents for the third year in a row, totaling 9,539 people between the two counties over that time period.

    The data released Thursday includes population numbers by county and by metropolitan region only. State-by-state data came out in December and showed Illinois declining in population for the fifth year in a row, losing roughly 45,000 residents from 2017 to 2018.
    While much news coverage of Illinois’ population woes has focused on residents who move away, the census numbers also reflect “natural” gains or losses — births vs. deaths — and the number of people who arrive from other counties, states or other nations. For the Chicago area, decreasing birthrates and stagnating international migration have added to the impact of residents choosing to move elsewhere in recent years.
    The census numbers on migration are expressed only in terms of net gain or loss. Cook County’s net migration has been negative for at least 27 years, meaning more people moved away than moved to the area. The newest data put the current rate of net migration loss at 8.6 per 1,000 people, though the county’s lowest point came in 2005 when about 13 per 1,000 more people left than came in.
    In the collar counties, meanwhile, more people have left than entered in every year since 2011, reversing the previous trend.

    Michael Gillam and Mary Green eat cupcakes in the Highland Village shopping center in Houston on April 12, 2019. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune)

    The census numbers don’t explain the many reasons why people might move out of the Chicago area — some may have followed their employers, or graduated from school — but in interviews with the Tribune, former residents who chose to leave gave a litany of reasons, including high taxes, government corruption, crime rates, economic instability, long commutes, an overall rise in the cost of living and the weather.
    Michael Gillam and Mary Green, both originally from Ohio, loved Chicago’s skyline, lakefront and restaurant scene while living in the Ravenswood neighborhood in 2015 and 2016, and then enjoyed a more suburban lifestyle for another year in Naperville in DuPage County.
    Yet when it came time to put down roots, the couple moved to Houston in February 2018, seeking more affordable housing and a warmer climate in one of the fastest growing areas of the country.
    “We just wanted to move somewhere where our money would stretch further,” said Gillam, 29, a software developer. “The housing market here is fantastic, it’s exploding. In Illinois, it seems like people are leaving.”

    Gillam and Green, a 33-year-old licensed practical nurse, said they grew uneasy with crime in the city as well as instability in Illinois government, particularly after experiencing a two-year state budget stalemate that ended in 2017. They’re looking to buy a home and had worried that real estate in an area with a declining population would prove a bad investment and difficult to sell down the road.
    While they’ll return to Chicago for their wedding in summer 2021, they have no plans to do so permanently.
    “No regrets at all,” Gillam said. “We never looked back.”
    Not just migration

    Flight to other states is one factor in the area’s population decline, but not the only one.
    Some experts note the metro region also isn’t attracting enough newcomers to make up for people who move away. Immigration from other countries also has long helped stem population loss, but in recent years this influx has been less robust, according to census estimates. Meanwhile, birthrates are slowing statewide, which means there are fewer new residents to make up for other losses.
    Take Cook County as an example. From 2017 to 2018 there were more births (63,850) than deaths (43,455), according to the census — creating what’s known as a “natural increase.” Over that same time period, Cook saw a net boost of 18,796 people arriving from other countries. (The census includes American troops and civilians moving back to the United States in this count.)
    But both of these gains combined could not offset the 63,339 net loss on domestic migration. All together, these create the county’s overall loss of more than 24,000 people.

    In west suburban Kane County, the picture is different, as thousands of babies are helping drive population growth. Kane saw an estimated 6,516 births in the last year, enough to compensate for a net migration loss of 2,011 people and 3,446 deaths.
    Kane had the highest rate of natural increase in the region from 2017 to 2018 — adding roughly 6 people per 1,000 residents when births and deaths are combined. Although Kane’s birthrate has declined over the years — mirroring the rest of the state — it remains the highest among the suburban counties in northeast Illinois at 12.2 births per 1,000 people.
    These trends didn’t surprise Tara Burghart, who is on the City Council in west suburban Geneva and used to run the blog “Go West Young Mom,” a hyperlocal site for parents in the Kane County area.

    Burghart believes the county tends to attract young families with great schools, libraries, thriving park districts and more affordable housing compared with other parts of the region.
    “And people might feel they have more physical space, and maybe economic space, to have one more child,” she said.
    Geneva resident Amanda Pauli agreed that it’s been a great place to raise children — but that isn’t enough to keep her in the area. Her family is planning to move to Michigan in June, close to the town where she grew up and near relatives.
    Pauli said they currently pay about $1,000 a month in property taxes, versus the $450 a month they expect to pay in Michigan. They’ll also be living on a lake in a wooded area, with more opportunities for biking, hiking and skiing.
    “The two biggest things are to be around family and cost of living,” said Pauli, a stay-at-home mom of two school-age kids. “And the outdoorsy part of it. We really miss that.”
    Her family will join one side of the net migration calculation, those who leave. But some experts say the focus should also be on attracting new people to the area.
    “We don't have a particularly high rate of just out-migration, but very few people come here relative to our population, compared to the rest of the country,” said Daniel Kay Hertz, research director at the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.
    Using numbers from the 2015 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. census, his agency found that Illinois ranked in the middle of the pack nationally on the rate of people leaving the state, but was third from the bottom on the rate of people coming in.
    The potential reasons that people are not moving to Illinois should be part of the conversation, Hertz said.
    “The narratives around the state matter and can shape people’s decisions,” Hertz said. “And the ones in Illinois are really, really, really negative in ways that I think overstate some of the issues relative to other places.”

    Jody Cameron, center, and teammates at softball practice at Montrose Park on April 13, 2019. Cameron moved to Chicago from Dallas in 2016. (Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune)

    Jody Cameron, 44, who came to Chicago from Dallas in November 2016 for a job in radiology administration, said he’s glad he made the move.
    While he found the overall cost of living in Texas much lower — there is no state income tax and fewer parking fees due to more open space — he said his salary increased by 50 percent because his training was more in demand here.
    He appreciates Chicago’s diversity, restaurants, cultural opportunities and sporting events, and doesn’t feel any less safe than when he lived in Dallas. When he posts pictures of snow on social media, friends in Texas comment that they’re jealous. He doesn’t miss scorching hot summers.
    “People here are like, why would you move here?” said Cameron, who lives in the Logan Square neighborhood. “Because people tend to think the grass is greener somewhere else. My view is, there’s pros and cons of every place.”
    Consequences of change

    The Chicago area’s population loss fits a broader pattern of decline in Illinois, which lost its spot as the fifth-largest state in the country to Pennsylvania in 2017.
    Of 102 counties in Illinois, only 16 experienced population growth from 2017 to 2018, and only 11 have had net gains so far this decade, said Brian Harger, research associate at the Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University.
    After several decades of modest growth, the state population began to drop after 2013, with a net loss of more than 138,000 people since then, he said. Growth in the Chicago area and a few pockets downstate used to be enough to offset losses elsewhere, but that’s not been the case in more recent years, he said.
    “Even the Chicago area did not do very well,” Harger said. “There were only a couple of counties on the periphery that gained population and their gains were fairly modest.”
    Downstate metro areas — counties that surround an urban core of at least 50,000 people, such as Moline in the Quad Cities, Peoria and Bloomington — are similarly experiencing larger net migration deficits that have turned population gain to loss, census data show.
    From 2001 to 2007, downstate metro areas added 144,089residents, mostly driven by gains in migration. But in the last seven years, those areas have lost a third of that gain, about 43,000 people.
    As for the state’s rural counties, they have been losing population since 1997 as residents’ deaths outpace births and more people move out than come in.

    While many experts bemoan the drops in population, Chicago demographer Rob Paral examined Cook County’s most recent numbers and found “neither cause for joy nor cause for alarm.”
    Because Cook is such a large county, the number of residents lost is less important than the percent change, he said. Cook County’s population increased for several years after 2010, Paral said, and while it’s been falling since 2015, the percent decrease has been minimal.
    While population loss is important to monitor, he said, he doesn’t believe there’s a crisis in Cook County.
    “There’s not some mass exodus going on,” he said. “I think this is important, because for many years there was a worry that somehow the county was just going to have accelerated loss, but that’s not what we see. People were using the loss of population here … as a hook to hang their favorite issue on. They would say it was because of taxes, or because of this and that. But the numbers don’t really support the idea that we have some kind of dire problem.”
    Other experts warn that the consequences of continued population loss could be bleak.
    At least $34 billion in federal funding for programs that directly assist Illinois residents is tied to the looming 2020 census count, according to a recent report from the George Washington University Institute of Public Policy; population loss could mean less money to go around. Illinois also risks losing as many as two congressional seats if this once-in-a-decade count shows enough of a population decline, with ramifications for long-term political representation, according to a report from the Illinois Complete Count Commission.
    Population loss in the Chicago area is particularly concerning in terms of the region’s economy, said Aseal Tineh, associate policy analyst for the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.
    “We talk a lot about how demographic trends and population changes are a condition and consequence of economic prosperity,” she said. “When we see population decline, that might indicate how well the economy is doing for providing opportunity for individuals and communities. But then the reverse is true. As we lose population, we’re also losing human capital and our workforce. And that’s concerning for the growth of the regional economy. So the concern is both ways.”

    Norman Walzer, senior research scholar at the Center for Governmental Studies at NIU, who has studied economic development and public finance in rural areas for almost 50 years, noted that these parts of the state are already dealing with lack of access to health care. Dwindling populations also place a strain on local government finances, Walzer said.
    Population decline can tear at the social fabric of the hardest-hit communities, particularly when businesses shut down and local schools close or merge, said Kathleen Cagney, director of the Population Research Center at the University of Chicago.
    An aging population with less growth and stagnating birthrates shifts more of the economic burden onto younger, working folks, she added.
    “You have to think about something called the dependency ratio,” she said. “The number of people who are in the labor market, essentially, compared to those who require support. Because people are living longer, many of those people are not fully engaged in the labor market. So you’ve got a population that requires some form of assistance and fewer people to assist.”


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  2. #2
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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