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Illinois population loss accelerating
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Illinois population loss accelerating

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Illinois is shrinking.

Again. Or perhaps, still.

For the seventh year in a row, the state's population has decreased, according to estimates released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

While this has been a trend for the Land of Lincoln, the estimated loss from July 2019 to July 2020 was the second largest in the nation — behind only New York. The 79,487-person plummet in Illinois was the worst population decline for the state since World War II, according to Bryce Hill, a senior research analyst for the non-partisan Illinois Policy Institute.

What's troubling to analysts is the longer-term view. The rate at which Illinois is seeing more people moving out than moving in actually is getting faster, which is an anomaly among states. After seeing net increases in population from 2010 through 2012, the trend reversed sharply in 2013, and has grown from a deficit of 10,686 that year to minus 41,816 in 2017 and minus 55,208 in 2018.

With the loss this year and the 57,688 population drop in 2019, the Census Bureau estimates about 253,000 people have stopped calling Illinois home in the past decade. That is about triple the loss of other states during the same period, according to Hill.

Migration statistics for individual counties will not be available for several months. Past trends, though, have shown losses in both rural and suburban parts of the state.

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Illinois Policy Institute chief economist Orphe Divounguy believes better housing, better employment opportunities and lower taxes elsewhere are driving forces behind the decline.

"Illinois' record population loss is a symptom of declining public and private investments. Rising pension debt coupled with an increasing tax burden have raised costs for Illinoisans," Divounguy said. "It's become clear that Illinois leaders are not committed to changing course. Every year taxes go up, and yet there are fewer and less reliable services."

To be fair, though, total U.S. growth was the lowest in about 120 years and comes on the heels of a population stagnation resulting from lower birth rates and decreased immigration.

Deaths because of the COVID-19 pandemic also are having an effect, William Frey, a senior fellow at The Brooking Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program, told The Association Press.

"I think it's a first glimpse of where we may be heading as far as low population growth," Frey said. "It's telling you that this is having an impact on population."

According to Census Bureau estimates, population nationwide increased by 1.1 million — 0.35% — from July 2019 to July 2020.

The U.S. population is estimated at 329 million people.

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