Local Editorials

Our View: Census data brings little joy

Illinois certainly didn’t get much of a Christmas gift from the U.S. Census Bureau.

A report right before the holiday that the state’s population had fallen for a third straight year was more like a lump of coal in its Christmas stocking.

Illinois’ population, which stands at about 12.8 million, shed 37,508 people in 2016.

That’s after losing 22,194 people in 2015 and 7,391 in 2014.

We’re not growing anymore.

We’re shrinking.

Last year’s decline was driven by the excessively large number of Illinoisans who moved out of state – 114,144 to be exact. Newborns and newcomers, unfortunately, were unable to make up for the heavy rate of departures.

Why are people leaving?

A number of reasons, actually. High taxes. More and better employment opportunities elsewhere. An incompetent state government. Bad weather.

How does the outmigration of 114,144 Illinoisans compare to neighboring states?

Unfavorably.

Michigan, between July 2015 and July 2016, had an outmigration of 27,839.

Other outmigrations for the same period: Wisconsin, 12,395; Indiana, 12,135; Missouri, 6,250; and Iowa, 3,392.

Where does McHenry County stand in all this?

We’re losing population, too.

Between July 2010 and July 2015, McHenry County lost about 1,500 residents, according to the Census Bureau. The county’s population was estimated at 308,826 in July 2010 and 307,343 in July 2015.

Leaders in Illinois, in general, and McHenry County, specifically, need to be aware that whatever they’ve been doing to attract newcomers and keep current residents, it hasn’t been enough.

People will stay in areas that have plentiful opportunities for employment and good educations. They’ll stay where they feel safe and where the quality of life is top-notch. They’ll stay if they believe they are receiving efficient government services at a fair rate of taxation.

If they can’t get those things here, they’ll pick up and move elsewhere – hence our declining population.

As the New Year progresses, we encourage leaders to study this problem, develop initiatives to deal with it, and always keep it in mind as they make decisions regarding the region’s future – a future that now entails fewer taxpayers, fewer fee payers, fewer consumers and fewer users of governmental services.

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