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Illinois lost nearly 160,000 residents over the last decade, most in the country

The decline of Illinois’ population began in 2014 and hasn’t relented over the past six years.

Cars and trucks on a Chicago-area expressway.
Illinois will end the decade with the largest population loss in the country during the 2010s, according to new census estimates.
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Illinois will end the decade with the largest population loss in the country during the 2010s, according to newly released census estimates.

Only four states — excluding the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico — experienced population loss since 2010.

Illinois lost over 159,700 residents, or about 1.3% of its population, between 2010 and 2019. West Virginia followed with a loss of 60,871 people; Connecticut with 8,860; and Vermont with 1,748.

Illinois kicked off the decade as the the fifth-most populous state but will end as the sixth behind California, Texas, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania.

“After years of frustration, dysfunction and failure, Governor Pritzker is moving forward with big ideas that help working families — in a bipartisan way,” said Jordan Abudayyeh, spokeswoman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker. “The state has made historic investments in education and has begun repairing our social safety net.”

These investments, Abudayyeh said, will help people stay in Illinois.

The decline of Illinois’ population began in 2014 and hasn’t relented. Illinois lost 51,250 residents just in the past year — the second most in the country behind New York.

In Cook County, the largest share of the population loss was among African American residents. From 2010 to 2018, the county’s African American population fell 5.8% from 1,311,698 to 1,236,170 — a loss of over 75,000 people.

Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.