Illinois' Population Drain Continues for 7th Consecutive Year

The tax- and corruption-heavy state has lost a quarter-million people in the past decade.


For the seventh year in a row, census figures show residents moving out of Illinois in significant numbers. New estimates released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau reveal that the state's population in 2020 declined at a rate not seen since World War II.

Perhaps demanding that your excessively taxed residents give the government even more money is not the best way to keep those residents in your state amid a pandemic that has shut down massive chunks of the economy.

Over the course of the last decade, Illinois lost more than a quarter-million people, dropping to a total population of about 12.5 million. The state lost 79,000 residents this year, an increase over previous years. The Wall Street Journal predicts that as a result of this loss, the state will lose at least one congressional seat during the next reapportionment.

Illinois isn't alone. California, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Minnesota, and Michigan may also lose congressional representation due to population migrations over the past decade. New York and Alabama are on the bubble of each losing a representative. But none, not even California, has seen Illinois' population loss.

Reason has been making note of this trend for years, while also observing (particularly in Chicago) that state and local government have poorly managed their public employee pension obligations, creating massive government debts that consume budgets and lead to service cuts. Government leaders have responded not with better fiscal management (the state's powerful unions blocked pension reforms), but with more taxes and fees, even as residents leave. As C.J. Ciaramella has reported, Chicago's corrupt policing system of fines, asset forfeitures, and vehicle impounds serves to extract whatever money the city can get from its poorest citizens to pay for itself.

But these revenue schemes cannot replace taxpaying residents, which is why Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker threw a Hail Mary in November by trying to convince voters to change their income tax system from a flat tax to a graduated income tax. His plan, supported by state lawmakers, was to "update" the tax rates in order to jack up rates for the state's richest citizens. At least, that's what he told voters, selling it as a "Fair Tax."

But the referendum put before the voters would subsequently have allowed lawmakers to set whatever income tax rates they wanted on rich and poor alike. Voters saw through the act and soundly rejected Pritzker's plan, with 55 percent voting no.

Bryce Hill, senior research analyst for the Illinois Policy Institute, sees Illinois' continued decline as a reflection of the state's unwillingness to recognize that it can't tax its way back to prosperity:

While data scheduled to be released in February 2021 will shed light on the main drivers of population loss in 2020, historical data shows domestic outmigration—moving to and from other states—has been the sole driver of population decline. Major reasons Illinoisans are choosing to leave the state are for better housing and employment opportunities, both of which have been hindered by poor public policy in Illinois. Nearly half of Illinoisans have thought about moving away, and they said taxes were their No. 1 reason.

Maybe losing congressional representation and power will get through to state leaders? Don't hold your breath.

NEXT: To Protect 'Children' From E-Cigarettes, Congress Imposes New Restrictions on Everything Related to Vaping of Any Kind

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Google pays for every Person every hour online working from home job. I have ghs received $23K in this month easily and I earns every weeks $5K to 8$K on the internet. Every Person join this working easily by just just open this website and follow instructions….. Visit Here


      1. [ PART TIME JOB FOR USA ] Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple work from home. I have received $18576 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its earning are much better than regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
        on this pages…..work92/7 online

    2. [ PART TIME JOB FOR USA ] Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple works from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an VRT easy and simple job to do and its earnings are much better than regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
      on this page…. Visit Here

    3. [ PART TIME JOB FOR USA ] Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple works from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job XIM to do and its earnings are much better than regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
      on this page…. Visit Here

  2. Yeah it`s Possible…Anybody can earn 250$+ daily… You can earn from 6000-12000 a month or even more if you work as a full time job…It’s easy, just follow instructions on this page, read it carefully from start to finish… It’s a flexible job but a good
    eaning opportunity.. Here is More information.

  3. Get $192 hourly from Google!…Yes this is Authentic since I just got my first payout of $24413 and this was just of a single week… I have also bought my Range Rover Velar right after this payout…It is really cool job I have ever had and you won’t forgive yourself if you do not check it….

    ===========★ Home Profit System

    1. A Range Rover Velar costs 57K. You’ll need to work a few more weeks. Although apparently you are working 127 hours a week.

      1. I am made $84, 8254 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student. I am using QWe an online business. Here what I do,. for more information……… USA ONLINE JOBS

  4. “give the government even more money is not the best way to keep those residents”

    But is there any evidence that those leaving have changed their political views ? Or will they simply recreate the problem elsewhere ?

    1. We’ve had some of those schmucks move here. We re-educated them. They can’t play their stupid leftist woke mindless bullshit outside of their collectivist hivemind.

      1. Did you take ’em to the alley and beat the dumb fuck out of them?

        I can’t imagine a less aggressive approach would have any effect on a virtuous liberal.

        1. Easy and easy job on-line from home. begin obtaining paid weekly quite $4k by simply doing this simple home job. I actually have created $4823 last week from this simple job.HBo Its a simple and easy job to try to to and its earnings ar far better than regular workplace job. everyone will currently get additional greenbacks on-line by simply open this link and follow directions to urge started…….

          ===============★ Home Profit System

      2. You are on the losing side of human history. Sooner or later, the globalists will steamroll you too. Have a nice day.

        1. Yeah, I’m sure the Romans thought the same thing in 376 AD.

    2. I left Illinois in 2016 to get away from the corruption and taxes (I was born there, I didn’t choose to live there). I sure as hell don’t want to pay high taxes and put up with corruption in my new state.

      We left Illinois because the politics there sucks. We didn’t leave to bring those asshole ideas to our new homes.

  5. I left 16 years ago. Iowa did not vote blue in any significant manner. I consider that a win. Across the Mississippi river, the F#@* Pritzer signs were quite common.

  6. I also see Connecticut being on the bubble of going -1.

    1. The Democrats will get some back with DC, Puerto Rico and Guam plus 6 more senators.

      1. Brown wave to the rescue.

      2. Guam is too small. DC is a federal district and will never be a state. Puerto Rico should be a state if they want to.

      3. I get where you’re going, it’s about the Senate since it would only add about 6 more representatives. That said, the only smart move for Puerto Rico is to push for independence. The Jones Act drives up the cost of living higher than many continental states, there is no real benefit to statehood, and they’re losing people at a rate more than 7 times faster than Illinois. Independence and becoming more like Singapore, pre-PRC Hong Kong, or Grand Cayman would be the best path forward but there’s lots of socialist ideals that need to be tossed first.

        Consider with 52% bothering to vote and of those a scant 50.7% ticked the yes to statehood box and you get only about 26.5% of registered voters who clearly favor statehood. To put it in perspective a full 33% more people voted for statehood in 2012 (with 78% turnout and a half million ballots invalidated) than voted for statehood in 2020. My guess is many recognize that statehood isn’t some panacea and simply don’t bother showing up to the polls as evidenced by 2017’s statehood vote turnout of only 23%.

        My guess is that one day PR will begrudgingly become a state, kicking and screaming all the way.

        1. Don’t Puerto Ricans currently escape paying U.S. Income Tax? I’d assume some large percentage wouldn’t find it advantageous to become a state.

          1. Puerto ricans dont pay federal income tax. They are a welfare drain on the federal government. Thats why they dont go want to be a state. Then they would have to follow basic constitutional voting rules and pay taxes.

    2. CA, OR, RI, IL, NM, NY all losing at least 1 House seat and going to red states, like Texas and Georgia.

      Commofornia might be -3 because Trump doesnt have to count illegals.

      Trump’s second term as president AND republican majority in the House And senate!

      1. CA residents still vote blue when they leave. Proggies salt the earth wherever they go. It’s happening in AZ and will happen in TX.

  7. Over the course of the last decade, Illinois lost more than a quarter-million people, dropping to a total population of about 12.5 million.

    So…. a mere 25k people per year have left out of a population of 12.5 mil. This is hardly encouraging as a data point in support of the idea that people flee high-tax high-regulation states.


    1. My thought exactly. A small price to pay for unlimited taxation on the remaining 12.5 million.

      1. But only about half of whom pay any tax at all.

    2. Sounds like small potatoes until you compare to its neighbors

      Since 2010
      Illinois -1.9%
      Iowa 3.8%
      Indiana 4.2% (~half the size of IL gained more people than Illinois lost)
      Kentucky 3.2%
      Missouri 2.7%
      Wisconsin 2.6%

      Only West Virginia lost more people as percentage of population compared to 2010 and that has to do with decline of coal not kleptocracy.

      1. I moved from IL to IA in 2015
        After this year in particular, no regrets whatsoever.

    3. “a quarter-million people” is 250k. You’re off by an order of magnitude.

      It also works out to 2% of your total population. If you don’t think that driving out one of every 50 people is significant, I’m curious what threshold you do think would support the hypothesis.

      1. Though I generally agree with your conclusion, you probably should read what he actually wrote.

        Yes. They lost 250k in a decade.

        He simply broke that down to 25k PER YEAR.

        Put that way, it doesn’t really seem bad, but accumulatively it’s a pretty big deal.

        1. Its actually worse than that.
          When you consider how much neighboring states grew from 2010 to 2020, and consider that from 2000 to 2010 IL itself grew by 6%, IL is down a lot compared to its potential.

          If we are being modest in expectations, and Illinois had grown at the avg of its surrounding states (3.3%) it should have about 425k new residents.
          With a loss of 250k however, that puts IL about 675k in the hole, or down 5.2% from where growth could reasonably have been expected to be.

          Even if growth had only been equal to WI, the lowest growth neighbor, IL would be down 590k over the last 10 years

          Granted this is a little be more involved than my simple math as some folk (like myself) moved from IL to IA and so that would have to be accounted for, but that’s more complex than can be conveyed in a short post.

    4. Ditto. I mean, yeah, Illinois is f&cked up, but the “population loss” numbers aren’t shocking. 25,000/yr is 0.2%.


    5. It’s significant if it continues. They don’t all have to flee overnight. Exponential effects will start to kick in if the people leaving are net tax payers rather than net tax consumers. And I’m sure they are. Also, the fact that for the most recent year the exodus was 79k, more than 3x the average, is pretty damning.

  8. Moving out of Illinois is racist, misogynist, and whatever else the Chicago Teachers Union says it is.

    1. How about those who would never move to Illinois at all?

  9. This is now happening in the People’s Republic of NJ as well; we are hemorrhaging wealthy residents. When David Tepper left the People’s Republic, he took ~140MM annual tax revenue with him. There are more like David Tepper who live in the People’s Republic, and they are leaving also. It is not an accident. I will join them in time; I am leaving the People’s Republic of NJ also.

    Now I am no David Tepper, but people like me are leaving also. By the thousands annually. We’ll figure out how to live 183 days in a tax-free state, and use our homes in the People’s Republic for whatever (some rent out their homes, I have no plans to). And screw that horseshit of taxing remote workers. That tax scheme is nothing but naked theft.

    1. just tax them for the next 10 years like California plans to

    2. left the People’s Taxpublic 12 years ago. no regrets.

      the property taxes on the house i grew up in finally broke $10,000/yr just recently…lolz

      1. (Property taxes break $10,000.)

        “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

        There may be a point where exorbitant public pension costs, NIMBY-inflated housing costs, lawsuit culture, artificial water shortages, and abandonment of public safely chase out California’s cash cows (computer tech, Hollywood, some legacy defense contractors). So far, however, that has not happened.

        As Adam Smith once said, “there is a lot of ruin in a nation.”

        1. I thought NJ2AZ was denouncing California (“People’s republic”), but it looks like he was denouncing NJ, so the details of my comment do not make sense. I apologize.

  10. I am from Illinois. Forming the possessive of Illinois requires a second s because the first is silent.

    1. The ‘s’s’ are leaving the state along with everyone else.

    2. So you’re saying it isn’t pronounced “ill-annoys”? Huh, I learn something new every day.

    3. I think to form a possessive of an Illinois bachelor is to add a s to Mr.

      1. Los impuestos altos de Illinois.

  11. It’s easier to flee from Democrat governance than to try to fix it.

  12. Now let’s do the dumbest state: “California businesses are leaving the state in droves. In just 2018 and 2019—economic boom years—765 commercial facilities left California. This exodus doesn’t count Charles Schwab’s announcement to leave San Francisco next year. Nor does it include the 13,000 estimated businesses to have left between 2009 and 2016.” — The Hoover Institution

    1. It’s the only way for the orange groves to return to Orange county. Maybe with fewer people there will be enough water for the Santa Ana River to be more than a dry wash and homeless shelter – assuming the Anacrime cops stopped rousting them for baseball games and other non-events at taxpayer funded Angels Stadium.

  13. Is that why the fighting Illini football team sux?

  14. Illinois isn’t losing congressional representation. It just moving from tax payers in Illinois to retired Illinois government pensioners now living in Florida.

  15. Maybe losing congressional representation and power will get through to state leaders? Don’t hold your breath.
    Yeah. It didn’t seem to wake any of them up in 2010 and 2000 when about the same pattern played out.

  16. Illinois is so bad even the dead voters are leaving.

  17. Chicago is a failure on so many levels of good government. Once it did the Rockefeller dance of welfare like NY it was pretty much over. With welfare you get big government agencies which with govt unions you get…well you get it. The only real solution in these cases is to shut down 90% of govt but hard to do when a majority of the population collects a check or gets paid by govt to run the “programs.” Blue States will never go Red unless they are allowed to go into bankruptcy with real teeth to the policy changes.

  18. I only stay for the weather and the winning sports teams.

    1. They still got the ’85 Bears. And remember the 90’s? The Bulls were fun to watch. The Blackhawks won a few times too. Mitch Tribensky will turnout alright, just give him a chance. Hey, remember Ditka? Yeah, that was good times.

  19. Granted, high taxes and poor governance are bad. But more people are good? I get the point, residents fleeing are a sign of something wrong. Well, maybe. People fleeing the high taxes of Chicago and Illinois have been the basis of stories for decades. Yet, their property prices have risen and risen, more houses have been built there, as have more downtown Chicago “high-rises.” High taxes are often found in high income states and cities, and those high incomes are appealing. Taxes can get much too high, but legislators and residents, new and old, adjust. More people in Illinois, fewer people elsewhere, just plain good for Illinois? No. If Illinois taxes are too high, lower taxes and fewer people, would be good for Illinoisans. Lowering taxes to retain residents, rather than to achieve more reasonable tax rates, would be good accomplished foolishly.

  20. And the Great Migration goes into reverse.

  21. I still live in Illinois as I had a very good job here. I retired and about the only thing Illinois doesn’t tax is retirement income (so far). Two of my three kids have moved to Missouri due to better jobs and lower taxes. My home is paid for, however I still have to pay over $4k in property taxes for a modest 1900 sq ft place even with the senior discount. Our mayor said that he had to raise taxes as taxpayers are moving away due to high taxes! Cutting the budget never entered his mind. Democrats.

    1. We need to abolish every subsidy, welfare and bailout, we need to prohibit offering future pensions for government workers, and we need to disempower unions.

  22. I wonder if the 2020 Illinois graduated income tax amendment would have passed if it was linked to repeal of the rigid ban on reform of public employee pensions.

    The ban on graduated income tax and on pension reform were part of a deal in the1970 Illinois constitution. Public employee representatives accepted increased political difficulty keeping pension funds fully funded, in return for a rigid promise that courts would find the money for pensions anyways.

    It would have been better if a court had blocked the 1970 Constitution on grounds the rigid pension guarantee was an unConstitutional “title of nobility”, forcing legislators back to the bargaining table on balancing taxation with reasonable pension support.

    1. Why should I vote to repeal a restriction on taxation methods, when I don’t think there should be hardly any taxes at all? I mean, maybe there should be a little funding for police and highways, maybe not, but the fact that they’re struggling to milk enough revenue with the system they have is a symptom of the cancer we need to kill off so that our society doesn’t die with it.

  23. Democrats know best….. How to destroy any particular civilization.

    It has everything to do with their “slavery” mentality they like to paint as “forced charity”.

    The POWER to STEAL = WEALTH ( Is criminal )
    …. Fix your criminal minds lefties ….
    POWER = Individual Justice and Liberty
    … Until then you’ll constantly find yourselves in prison (70% [D]) and destroying everything you claim to be fixing.

  24. First nine post are spam. Great job Reason.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.