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Report: Illinois One of Only Two States to Shrink since Recession

Illinois is one of only two states that lost population over the past decade.

In the years since the Great Recession, West Virginia’s population has dropped by 34,500. The decline was largely attributed to that state’s struggling economy. Pew Charitable Trusts has released a report that showed Illinois had seen slow growth until five years ago when the number of people moving out of the state surpassed the number of people moving in and the number babies being born. Since 2008, Illinois’ population has fallen by 6,000.

Illinois’ population declined by more than 45,000 in the 12 months ending last July, according to the most recent U.S. Census data.

“More people and more workers and consumers add to economic activity, which generates more tax revenue,” Pew Research Officer Joanna Biernacka-Lievestro said. “A growing economy then can attract even more workers and their families. The reverse is usually true for states with slow-growing or shrinking populations.”

The most recent Internal Revenue Service migration data estimated that Illinois lost $4.75 billion in adjusted gross income on net to other states in tax year 2015, an all-time high.

The states that had the largest population growth were Florida, Utah and Colorado.

A number of reports show outmigration trends that flow out of high-tax states to those with a lower tax burden. A Southern Illinois University at Carbondale poll from 2015 showed that half of the Illinois residents polled would leave the state if they could. The No. 1 reason: Taxes. National migration patterns can be complex, fueled by multiple factors. Generally, Americans have been moving in recent decades to warmer climates, more affordable areas and places with more jobs.

Credit rating agency Fitch Ratings wrote in a 2018 report that while Illinois’ population losses have accelerated since the recession, there has been a pattern of out-migration that’s been virtually uninterrupted since the mid-1920s. It’s only in the last handful of years that the state’s birthrate and immigration rates have failed to make up for the growing outflow of residents.

IRS outmigration data from 2015-2016 shows Texas and Florida were the top destinations for Illinoisans who moved away.

A 2018 Census report predicted that elderly residents will outnumber children in the U.S. by 2030, which experts said could exacerbate Illinois’ population slide.