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Illinois Sees Sharpest Drop in Population Since World War II

New Census data show Illinois is the only state in the nation to see worsening population loss for seven straight years.
CHICAGO (Dec. 22, 2020) – Illinois recorded population loss for the seventh year in a row, which is the longest streak of population decline in state history. According to data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau, Illinois shrank by 79,487 people from July 2019 to July 2020, experiencing the second largest population loss over the year for any state both in raw numbers and as a percentage of the population.

Analysis from the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute found this year’s loss was historic – the single largest decline for the state since World War II. Meanwhile, researchers point out this data represents the first full year of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s policy agenda – including 20 tax and fee hikes, a minimum wage increase and a push for a progressive income tax.

Original analysis of U.S. Census data finds:

  • In 2020, Illinois lost the population equivalent of Bloomington, the 12th-biggest city in Illinois.
  • Even subtracting the 6,951 deaths from COVID-19 as of July 1, Illinois hasn’t lost this many residents since 1945, when the population declined by 118,000 residents.
  • Over the decade, from July 2010 to July 2020, Illinois lost a grand total of 253,015 residents, more than triple the amount lost by any other state during the decade. This is equivalent to losing the cities of Naperville and Peoria combined.
  • Only New York lost a greater number or share of residents over the year.
  • Illinois is the only state with seven straight years of accelerating population decline. West Virginia has experienced eight years of consecutive decline, while Connecticut experienced seven – but neither have seen their losses worsen every year.
  • The states that grew the most in 2020 were Idaho, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Texas. The states that shrunk the most were New York, Illinois, Hawaii, West Virginia and Mississippi.
Orphe Divounguy, chief economist for the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute, offered the following statement:  “Illinois’ record population loss is a symptom of declining public and private investments. Rising pension debt coupled with an increasing tax burden have raised costs for Illinoisans, causing them to flee the state for better housing and employment opportunities elsewhere.

“It’s become clear that Illinois leaders are not committed to changing course. Every year taxes go up, and yet there are fewer and less reliable services. Now, more than ever, Illinois needs to foster an environment where its residents can thrive. That can only happen when state leaders enact constitutional pension reform that would improve the state’s fiscal situation and protect core services that Illinoisans rely on.”

To read the full Census analysis, visit


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