The Chicago metropolitan area led the nation for declining populations in 2015; it was the first decline in population for the Windy City and its suburbs since 1990. Meanwhile, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and state officials are juggling record pension deficits in the region’s public employee pension plans and the city’s police department is without a leader while homicide rates are doubling what they were last year.
“The fact is, the whole metro area actually lost population, because many more people moved out than moved in,” said William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution.
The number of residents leaving the Chicago area, about 80,000, was not offset by new residents and births causing a deficit of 6,263 people, according to U.S. Census Bureau data as published Thursday in the Chicago Tribune. Cook County alone lost about 10,488 people from 2014 which represents approximately a 0.24 percent drop to about 5.2 million people. While Chicago’s is the largest metropolitan shrinkage in the state of Illinois, the plunge in population extends to the entire state.
Experts say that black Chicagoans are fleeing the dangerous streets of south Chicago by increasing numbers, accounting for some of the declines. However, the state of Illinois is losing residents who migrate south and west in search of warmer climates to states like Nevada, Arizona and Florida. According to the census, the transference of population has increased, particularly in the Chicago area. Overall, Illinois lost about 22,194 people because about 105,217 more left the state than moved in, according to the data.
“There’s a broader pattern now that the economy is picking up again,” Frey said. “The old Snow Belt to Sun Belt movement is picking back up again, and movement south and west is fueling up.”
On the other hand, The Villages, Florida, a vast retirement community stretching from Sumter County north into Marion County, is the fastest growing metro area in the U.S.
Los Angeles, San Diego, Minneapolis and Boston placed respectively behind Chicago for annual declines in city- region populations. Chicago’s loss of residents is tied to what Rob Paral, a Chicago-based demographer who advises nonprofits and community groups, calls a “dramatic decline” in the city’s African-American population, perhaps from increasing violence. The 2010 census reported a 17 percent drop in the city’s black population over the previous decade. That number declined another 4 percent through 2014, to 852,756.
“White people have left the state for years,” he said. “But African-Americans? That’s the one-two punch.”