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Chicago’s population drops slightly, but Aurora, Naperville see gains

Chicago's West Side stretches into the distance from the Loop. | Sun-Times file photo

Of the 10 largest cities in the country, Chicago was the only one to see a drop in population from 2015 to 2016, marking the third consecutive year Chicago has lost residents, newly released Census data shows.

However, as far as cities in Illinois go, Chicago is far from alone. Census records show that 18 of the 25 largest municipalities in Illinois lost anywhere between .49 percent and 3 percent of their populations between 2013 and 2016.

Decatur, Peoria and Rockford lost a greater percentage of residents — between 1.89 percent and 3 percent — than any other areas of the state.

Joliet, Aurora, Orland Park, Bolingbrook, Naperville and Elgin — all in the northwest, west and southwest suburbs — each saw population gains between .19 percent and 1.81 percent between 2013 and 2016, records show.

Downstate Champaign’s population rose by 3.45 percent — the most of any city in the state — in the same time, going from 83,749 to 86,637.

Chicago’s population dipped by .51 percent — 13,929 people — between 2013 and 2016. In the last year, 8,638 residents moved out, with 2,704,958 people calling the city home as of July 1, 2016, records show.

The city’s recent decline is driven primarily by black residents moving out in droves.

“The decline in black population really accounts for a lot of the loss,” said Rob Paral, head of a Chicago-based demographic research and consulting firm. “The difference is that the white population is either growing or staying the same.”

Records show that Chicago had 872,286 black residents in 2010. By 2015, the number had shrunk to 840,188.

In that same time period, the city’s white population rose from 854,717 to 874,876. The Hispanic population increased from 778,862 to 790,621.

Even with the loss between 2013 and 2016, Chicago’s population rose by 22,932 since 2010.

Some of the former black city dwellers appear to have ended up in the suburbs, which census data show gained 105,500 black residents between 2000 and 2014 — a 22 percent increase.

The Census Bureau’s announcement Thursday comes in the wake of the bureau reporting in December that Illinois lost more people than any other state within a 12-month period. While eight states lost population between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016, Illinois lost the most — 37,508 residents — those numbers showed.

New York remains the largest U.S. city by a wide margin. Its population of 8.5 million is more than twice that of the 4 million living in runner-up Los Angeles. Houston clocked in fourth, with a population of 2.3 million.

The census data showed a migration of Americans to the South. Ten of the 15 fastest-growing cities with populations of 50,000 or more were spread across that region in 2016, with four of the top five found in Texas.

“Overall, cities in the South continue to grow at a faster rate than any other U.S. region,” said demographer Amel Toukabri of the bureau’s population division.

Since the 2010 Census, the populations of large southern cities grew by an average of 9.4 percent, while cities in the West grew by 7.3 percent.

Northeastern cities showed 1.8 percent growth, while populations of Midwestern cities grew by only 3 percent.

Phoenix showed the largest one-year numerical population increase of 32,113 from 2015 to 2016.