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Census estimates: Illinois lost more people than any other state

Census numbers show Illinois has lost more people than any other state. | U.S. Census Bureau photo

Illinois’ population is shrinking, losing more people than any other state within a 12-month period, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Tuesday.

While eight states lost population between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016, Illinois lost the most, with 37,508, the numbers show. Much of that shift is due to Illinoisans moving to other states.

Census estimates are calculated by adding the population base and births, while subtracting the number of deaths and adding migration numbers.

Among the most striking estimates is that more than 114,000 Illinois residents moved to other states. That number has increased exponentially since 2010, when just 13,461 left the state.

Another 30,934 residents moved out of the country, the report found. But the numbers also take into account the number of people coming from abroad to live in Illinois, creating a net migration loss of 83,210 people.

The Census Bureau plans to release more detailed information about migration next year, which will include age groups.

Reasons could be as simple as moving for weather, or job opportunities.

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration on Tuesday pinned the decline on people leaving the state for more economic opportunities and a lower overall tax burden. Amid the budget stalemate, Rauner has pushed for reforms he says will grow the economy and bring businesses back to Illinois.

“In order to reverse this trend, we need structural reforms to create more jobs, lower property taxes, improve our schools, and enact term limits to fix our broken political system,” Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said in a statement. “The longer the majority party stalls and refuses to compromise, backing the status quo, trends like this will continue.”

A Simon Public Policy Institute poll of 1,000 registered voters in Illinois, taken in October, found 47 percent said they would like to move out of the state. That same poll, however, found nearly 80 percent of those polled said they were unlikely to move. Taxes, government and jobs were reasons for people wanting to move, according to the poll.

There are also national ramifications to the decline. If the state continues to shrink in population when the official census is taken in 2020, the state could lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives; the state has 18 House members.

But Matthew Notowidigdo, associate professor of economics at Northwestern University, said there are a number of potential reasons for migration patterns. He said the exodus doesn’t necessarily impact the state’s economy, but it warrants a study of why it’s happening.

“People leaving the state itself, just having fewer people around, is not necessarily bad for everyone else’s economic output,” Notowidigdo said. “I wouldn’t be worried in terms of our labor market outcomes but I would want to know what’s causing the people to leave. If it’s just weather, there’s not much we can do about it. If it’s something about what the state is doing in terms of its tax policy or in terms of its spending, or in terms of how it’s generally managing the economy — if that’s what’s causing people to move, then you sort of should want to deal with that problem.”

But Notowidigdo warned that people don’t tend to move primarily because of current government policies.

“The reason why people are moving between states tends to reflect longer-run demographic trends,” Notowidigdo said, adding many older people move to warmer climates.

Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut — all with colder weather climates — also lost residents.