For the third consecutive year, Illinois has lost more residents than any other state, losing 37,508 people in 2016, which puts its population at the lowest it has been in nearly a decade, according to U.S. census data released Tuesday.
Illinois is among just eight states to lose residents, putting its population at 12,801,539 people, its lowest since about 2009. Illinois’ population first began to drop in 2014, when the state lost 11,961 people. That number more than doubled in 2015, with a loss of 28,497 people, and further multiplied in 2016.
“Illinois is a part of the country where, in general, during the recession, it held on to (people) who wanted to move to Sun Belt states. Now, it’s losing them,” said William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution who analyzes census data.
“When you have a big state like Illinois, to lose population for three years in a row? That’s cause for alarm,” he added.
The plunge is mainly a result of the large number of residents leaving the state in the past year — about 114,144 in all — which couldn’t be offset by new residents and births, according to census data measuring population from July 2015 to July 2016. The number of residents leaving the state is the largest in recent history, as data from 1990 show just 50,440 residents left Illinois and migrated to other states.