Free Minds & Free Markets

Illinois Bleeds Population for Fifth Year in a Row

Skyrocketing debt and pension obligations make for a tough labor environment.

Moving TruckMonkey Business Images / Dreamstime.comAround 45,000 former Illinois residents voted with their feet (and moving trucks) over the past year and set out for greener pastures. For the fifth year in a row now, the state has lost population.

Those numbers are from the U.S. Census Bureau, which show that for each of the past five years, the number of Illinois emigres has been consistently growing in size. Illinois has lost more than 155,000 people total the last five years, the equivalent of an entire small city.

This overall population decrease is not the result of an increase in deaths or a drop in births. While we are seeing a national trend of fewer births and more deaths that has reduced our current population growth to less than one percent, the Illinois residents departing the state are doing so while they are very much alive. Only a handful of other states lost population during this same time frame (July 2017 to July 2018), and none were neighbors of Illinois. New York was the only state that lost more people to interstate migration.

It's not just about the Windy City's various troubles (violent crime in Chicago is actually dropping). The Chicago area has seen a decline in population for three straight years, but so have other cities in the state.

Illinois' various financial problems—and lawmakers' tendency to look for new sources of taxes and revenue rather than cut spending—is pushing residents away. The Chicago Tribune spoke to Mary Miller, who lived in Illinois for 44 years, but finally left the state and moved down to Florida, where she found the tax burdens lighter and in-state college tuition cheaper. It wasn't all about the warmer temperatures.

The Illinois Policy Institute looked over IRS data and determined that a good chunk of outmigration from Illinois is due to the labor market. They classify labor market issues as tax policy, unemployment, and wages. In recent years, there have been thousands more people leaving Illinois due to these issues rather than considerations like weather or culture. Nor can we chalk this loss up to retirees looking for sunny climes—it's working class people between the ages of 25 and 54 who are bidding adieu to the Prairie State. Illinois is losing wealthier, more-educated people as well, because they can make more money elsewhere.

Illinois is infamous for its oppressive tax levels, and lawmakers and city leaders seem to constantly be on the lookout for more ways to earn revenue. They arguably need that money because the entire state is in the midst of an unspooling pension disaster. Illinois lacks the money to pay for the benefits it promised government employees, but its constitution bans scaling back those same benefits. This rule is so strict that the state's top court recently ruled unanimously the state can't even curb union representatives from padding their pensions while on leave from their actual government jobs to do union work.

The state has more than $130 billion in unfunded pension obligations across five different state pension plans, and the hole is growing.

And of course, losing population means that they're going to lose even more revenue, making it harder and harder to catch up. Which is why we're seeing proposals for even more taxes, new fees, and additional ways to separate citizens from their money, which then encourages even more people to leave the state. Democratic lawmakers now want to replace the state's flat income tax with progressive taxes, which would undoubtedly mean a hike on what the state's middle class pays.

The Illinois Policy Institute looked over this intractable problem and made some recommendations, the biggest of which is to cut spending, here.

Photo Credit: Monkey Business Images /

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  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    Maybe the FIPS abbreviation should be extended to ILL.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    No problem; Illinois will just have the stay behinds make up the difference.

  • StcSteve||

    I moved 2 years ago to Tennessee after living in the Chicago suburbs for 25 years. I'm saving over $1000 / mo on taxes. I don't regret the move one bit. Several friends and neighbors have moved as well and others are seriously thinking about it. I'll sit back and watch that ship sink from afar.

  • Jerryskids||

    Why haven't I heard anything about Rahm speculating about moving on up to DC and doing for America what he's done for Chicago?

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    and doing for to America what he's done for Chicago?

  • Fats of Fury||

    The current Governor elect Pritzker(D) spent 171 million of his own dough for a job that pays 177 grand. Very unusual in that he is so thrifty he saved over 40 thousand in property taxes by removing the toilets in one of his mansions.I suppose he will look to recover some of his costs and will eventually be a member of the Illinois Governors Hall of Fame in a Federal pen.

    If there were an honest Federal judge somewhere they would declare that constitution provision preserving state pensions unconstitutional as it does not guarantee private pensions equally. BTW Illinois state pensioners are also fleeing the state.
    In a few years it's gonna be state employees, welfare queens and illegal aliens fighting to the death over whatever crumbs are left.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    ""In a few years it's gonna be state employees, welfare queens and illegal aliens fighting to the death over whatever crumbs are left."'

    Ah, our own little Caracas.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    My money is on the welfare queens, because they have more cousins than the illegal immigrants have, and government employees cannot to much correctly.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    I grew up in Illinois but I'm not going back.

    It doesn't matter what the state constitution says if the productive people all flee the state.

  • ||

    >>It doesn't matter what the state constitution says if the productive people all flee the state.

    We need to put this on license plate frames.

  • turco||

    In other words a tax death spiral

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    [hands Illinois a tampon]

  • CDRSchafer||

    Progressives are too stupid to realize there's no wall to keep people in. Tax the rich works until the rich leave the country.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Simply put in place a hefty exodus tax. Do I have to think of everything?

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    How you gonna enforce it? Build a wall?

  • Mcgoo95||

    ..and make Missouri pay for it?

  • Juice||

    Who the fuck moves their fridge?

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    Australians, apparently.

  • JeffreyL||

    Trying to work with my firm to open an office in Dallas or Tampa. Trying to do my part to leave illinois

  • Longtobefree||

    Tampa; lovely west coast sunsets over the Gulf, and no state income taxes.

  • wareagle||

    That's really a big part of it, isn't it? I'm sure TX is a nice place but other than the Gulf Coast, you don't hear many folks moving for the scenery.

  • Scott Free2016||

    I'll take Texas Hill Country over the beach any day. The beach is ok, but it's largely the same every day, and the sun sets over lot's of places.

  • Brandybuck||

    Shit. I bet they are the ones moving to California and fucking up things here.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    I don't think you can blame on anyone else. California has all the earmarks of a home grown fuck up.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Besides, California is also loosing population.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    So all the productive people are leaving IL and leaving behind only the moochers and government stooges. Hmm, sounds like the plot of a really long book...

  • Cynical Asshole||

    And about that alt-text: there's nothing wrong with deep dish pizza casserole served in a bread bowl.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    A+ trolling from the Shack.

  • Uncle Jay||

    These traitors should be forced to move back to the People's Republic of Illinois.
    After all, who doesn't want to live in a socialist paradise that has high taxes, low employment, high crime, undisguised corruption, terrible weather and a bunch of thieves in Springfield?
    They'll miss all those wonderful benefits when they move and will soon coming crawling back to the Prairie State in no time.

  • Liberty Lover||

    Illinois is setting up border fences right now, along with internal passports and soon to make emigration out of the state illegal.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    I'd lift her box, if you know what I mean.

  • DaveSs||

    The IRS data is silent on the role deep dish pizza may have played in this outward migration.

    Its the only thing motivating some people to stay.

    The only thing I miss about living in the Chicagoland area is pizza.

  • LiborCon||

    Wait until Democrats run the whole country, then they'll be nowhere to flee to. We won't be able to point to successful states as better examples, cuz there won't be any. Just some billionaires telling us to tighten our belts and turn over our guns for the greater good.

  • Longtobefree||

    OK. I admit I love using Monkey Business for the images - - - - - -

  • wareagle||

    As you leave IL, try to remember why. Don't come here voting for the same shit.

  • Rockabilly||

    Maybe comrades from California can move to Illinois to assist

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    "Illinois? Isn't that like, windy and cold? Ew. They probably don't even have Fiji water. Totally bogus."

    - Former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    Yeah the voters in Illinois have decided that Madigan and Rahm weren't fucking up the state quickly enough so they hired Pritzger to finish the job. He brings with him a list of new welfare schemes and higher taxes, and he'll get them because Illinois is now ruled entirely by Illinois Democrats, the most corrupt organization since Hoffa's Teamsters. The only way out is to establish an Illinois central bank and start printing there own currency. If they think Trump is gonna save their asses I'm pretty sure they'll be disappointed.

  • Ride 'Em||

    Yup. And the people moving to Nashville are starting to make it a hellhole. And it is not just from Illinois. The previous mayor, who was from California, was kicked out for being corrupt. You can't watch the evening news without seeing some group wanting more money from the city to fund some project. It won't be long before Tennessee's pension obligations go from 97% funded to 60% like all the blue states. Do they call them blue states because they are so sad?

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    It's a great shame watching all the upper middle true blue yuppies bleed out into flyover country, like a plague, destroying one place then moving on to the next, all the while wilfully blind to what they are doing, paving the road to hell with all their good intentions.


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