Study: Exodus from Illinois increases slightly during the pandemic

Kevin Bessler  |  July 12, 2022

"(The Center Square) – A review of migration data to show how the pandemic has affected population shifts shows the number of people moving out of Illinois increased slightly once the pandemic began. 

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago analysis of United Van Lines statistics shows 64.7% of moves involved people leaving Illinois before the pandemic as opposed to moving to Illinois. That increased to 66.4% once the pandemic began. 

The data shows before the pandemic, Illinoisans fled the state for California, but during the pandemic, Florida was the top destination. The number of moves from Illinois to North Carolina picked up during the pandemic, as did the number of moves from Illinois to Tennessee.

University of Illinois researcher Zach Kennedy said many of those who left the state were considered working age.

“The U.S. population actually grew in sort of the prime working age, young adult age cohorts, where Illinois actually lost population in these age cohorts,” Kennedy said.  

The report notes despite the broad changes in employment and shifts in personal preferences on where to live, the pandemic’s impact on interstate migration patterns involving Midwestern states has not been dramatic.

Wirepoints president Ted Dabrowski said there are several reasons why people are continually moving away from Illinois.

“The high level of corruption and overall a lack of opportunity, because high taxes and corruption are job killers in the end,” Dabrowski said.

Recently released IRS data on interstate migration of income also offers insights into current migration patterns in the country. The most recent data available to the public is for 2020.

A Truth in Accounting report notes that Illinois lost 50,000 individual tax return filers in the first year of the pandemic.  

“Perhaps bad government finances might help explain why taxpayers left. Illinois is near the bottom in terms of debt and total taxpayer burden, which is the amount calculated by Truth in Accounting that each individual taxpayer would owe the state government to pay off its debt, with no services or benefits from this taxation,” the report said. The amount is close to $60,000.

Joanna Biernacka-Lievestro with Pew Charitable Trusts said if the outbound trend continues, Illinois’ finances will be challenged.

“Fewer people can generally lead to less economic activity and shrinking tax bases and that can, in turn, limit state revenue collections,” she said."

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