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Census: Illinois working-age residents declining

By Cole Lauterbach
Illinois News Network

CHICAGO – The state’s population of working-age residents is declining.

U.S. Census Bureau figures released Thursday show the total number of 25 to 54 year olds in Illinois decreased by more than 37,000. This represents residents in their prime working years.

“Eight states saw losses in total population between 2016 and 2017,” said Luke Rogers, chief of the Census’ population estimates branch. “All of these also lost in their 25-54 year-old population but Illinois’ population drop was the largest.”

Illinois population changes from July 2016 to July 2017 by age bracket:

0 to 5

6 to 14

15 to 19

20 to 24

25 to 54


The issue is not exclusive to one part of Illinois or another.

Cook County and all of the collar counties saw population declines in the 25-54 age range. Further south, both Peoria and McLean counties saw declines of 1,552 and 859, respectively.

This has Brian Harger, research associate with the Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University, worried.

“A lot of those people are current working age population,” he said. “Fewer workers, fewer taxpayers.”

Brookings Senior Fellow William H. Frey said that outmigration has long existed in midwestern states, but Illinois continues to outpace the rest in people leaving.

“None of them have shown this kind of sustained population loss,” he said.

Net migration to other states is a trend in the Midwestern region but, only Illinois lost so much that it declined in total headcount.

The state as a whole lost 115,000 people due to domestic out-migration last year, according to previously released of Census numbers.

Chicago demographer Rob Paral said there’s a national trend of fewer working-age people. He added that decisions need to be made on a local level to keep people from moving.

“It’s time to wake up and think ‘what is it going to take to stabilize the population,’” he said, emphasizing the importance of encouraging more immigrants to the area.

The aging baby boomer population, Paral said, is leaving a much smaller working population as it is. He likened it to the image of the slimmer part of a python after a meal.

A 2016 poll done by Southern Illinois University at Carbondale showed 47 percent of likely voters surveyed would leave Illinois if they could. The top reason was taxes. That poll found that people younger than 50 were much more likely to want to leave than the rest of the population. Fifty-seven percent of millennials (younger than 35) wanted to leave the state and 58 percent of those between 35 and 50 wanted to leave. Twenty-nine percent of adults older than 66 wanted to move out.


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