Illinois fled at a record rate in 2021. The state lost 122,460 netizens due to moves to other states.
Illinois’ population fell by a record 113,776 from July 2020 to July 2021, according to US Census Bureau estimates.
Estimates also show that the sole driver of Illinois’ population decline was residents leaving for other states. The 122,460 residents who left was a record.
This is the eighth consecutive year of population decline in Illinois, according to Census Bureau estimates. West Virginia is the only state whose population has been in decline for longer, suffering just its ninth consecutive year.
Illinois continues to see a natural increase in population as births exceed deaths, but by an increasingly narrow margin. It is also gaining residents from abroad. But so many people are leaving Illinois for other states that the state’s total population is declining.
Census Bureau estimates showed there were 2,778 more births than deaths in Illinois, 5,766 net migrants gained from overseas, but 122,460 net residents lost to other states.
Loss of residents to other states increased 7% in Illinois from 2020 estimates. Illinois is one of seven states to experience spikes in emigration rates in 2021 compared to 2020 .
Of the states that previously lost residents to other states, North Dakota saw the largest spike, with emigration rates increasing by 130%. New York (+68%), California (+52%), Massachusetts (+41%), Minnesota (+36%) and Louisiana (+20%) also saw significant increases in emigration.
Virginia, Hawaii, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Kansas, Alaska, Mississippi, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio all continued to lose residents to inland emigration in 2021 , but at a slower pace than in 2020.
Meanwhile, most states that previously received migration from other states saw a sharp increase in inward immigration. Neighboring Indiana has seen the largest increase in migration rates among these states, with migration rates increasing nearly 10 times from the level seen in 2020.
New Hampshire, Arkansas, Maine, Oklahoma, Montana and Utah all saw their migration rates increase by 100% or more between July 2020 and July 2021. Migration rates in Arizona, Nevada , Colorado and Oregon remained positive but slightly below their 2020 levels.
There were also a good number of states that saw their migration trends reverse from 2020 to 2021.
Vermont, Connecticut, South Dakota, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky and Wisconsin all lost residents to emigration in 2020 but gained residents through internal migration in 2021. New Mexico and Washington had previously gained residents through internal emigration in 2020 but lost residents through migration in 2021.
While the “natural increase” of population – the difference between births and deaths – has historically declined, internal migration has become an even more important factor in state population growth.
The primary reasons Illinois chose to leave the state were for improved housing and employment opportunities, both of which were compounded by poor public policy in Illinois. Nearly half of Illinoisans have thought about moving, and they say taxes are their main reason. Population decline is also contributing to the decline in the state’s economic prospects.
It remains unclear to what extent these factors contributed to Illinois leaving the state starting in 2020-21, rather than other factors such as pandemic-related job losses, school closures and government mandates. Nonetheless, census data confirms that Illinois’ population decline, driven by emigration, has reached record levels and is more of a problem than ever, as Illinois is one of the few states accelerating emigration, whatever the cause.