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Residents Leaving Southern Illinois In Droves

Story by WBGZ Radio

Residents are leaving Southern Illinois counties in droves as the state continues to shrink. 

The U.S. Census Bureau reported last December that Illinois is shrinking. Now, the agency is revealing where Illinois is shrinking the most.

Cook County, with about 5.2 million people, is by far the most populous county in Illinois. It lost the most people too, having seen more than 45,000 people on net head for the door from July of 2016 to July of 2017. But, the largest percentage of the locals are leaving downstate counties.

“Those losing population the most rapidly appear to have been more commonly located in the southern portions of Illinois,” Census Demographer Molly Cromwell said.

At a negative 2.7 percent growth rate, Alexander County lost the highest portion of its population. Some 176 people left the county of 6,500 in 2016. Alexander County Board Chairman Chalen Tatum wouldn’t comment on his county’s population losses because he lost his primary challenge Tuesday. Election winners weren’t available Wednesday.

The other counties that had the highest percentage of residents leave weren’t far away. McDonough (-1.8), Pulaski (-1.7), Gallatin (-1.6) and Marshall (-1.4) counties saw more rapid population declines than other counties in Illinois.

The largest total loss of population outside of Cook County was Peoria, which lost a net 3,100 people last year.

“I knew there was a significant exodus but I didn’t think it was that high,” Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said. Machine maker Caterpillar’s downsizing, Ardis said, is likely to explain a lot of the decrease.

Ardis stressed that state and local pension burdens are also driving people and businesses out of his city.

“What we really need to do as a state is get our fiscal house in order,” he said. “We have a lot of interest from companies that would be interested in relocating or adding to their business in Peoria but the concern is that higher [debt] in Springfield.”

Other notable areas that saw net population decreases include: McLean County (-1,305), Champaign County (-913), Adams County (-448) and Winnebago County (-2,122).

The counties that gained population followed jobs. Most of the collar counties saw small net outmigration but a total gain in population from 2016.

Cromwell said the national trend of population movement from northern and northeastern states to southern states has continued.

Maricopa County, Arizona, added the most residents last year of any county in the nation, growing by more than 76,000 in 12 months.

 

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(Copyright WBGZ Radio / www.AltonDailyNews.com)

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