Lately, several friends have asked if there’s been an exodus in Chicago. “Is it really true about what’s happening in Chicago?” “Is everyone really leaving? Simply put, yes – there’s been an Illinois exodus. However, Chicago itself has actually grown.
The Illinois exodus has been happening for a long time and the pandemic certainly didn’t help. The U.S. census estimates the Illinois’ population to be less than 12.6 million people — a decrease of about 79,500 people from 2019. Moreover, in the past decade, the state lost nearly a quarter million residents. Yikes.
However, to be clear, this article explains the state’s population decline is not-metro Chicago and actually the rest of the state. In fact, the fastest shrinking county in the United States is at the southern tip of Illinois – Alexandra county, according to Chicago magazine.
On the other hand, the city’s population grew nearly 2% from 2010 to 2020 — from 2.6 million people to 2.7 million. So while it feels like there’s been a Chicago exodus when it’s actuallya southern and western state-type of thing.
What is the Illinois Exodus?
Okay, so why are people leaving? Well, there are infinite reasons that vary by person and family. However, I often attribute the Illinois exodus to three things – economic frustrations, crime, and above all – high taxation.
Let’s start with crime. Turn on the news or click on the Chicago Tribune homepage, and you’re immediately flooded with headlines of every crime under the sun. However, if you peel back the data, some types of crimes are on the rise while others are at an all-time low. I found this ABC Chicago article to be helpful with the overall breakdown.
Next, high taxation. Friends – this is a huge pain point for us and other residents. In fact, we’re currently on the hunt for a second home (more details in a future blog post, promise!). We’ve been searching in Illinois, but the taxes make it a struggle. It would be a very foolish decision frankly. Why would we pay WAY more taxes when we’re open to buying in a nearby state? After doing some research, we found Illinois is 6.3% more expensive than Wisconsin (where Bob grew up). I’m all about investing in our state, but the high taxation is just wild.
Lastly, the state economy is BAD. Like, really bad. Simply put, Illinois is projecting a budget deficit of $3.9 billion in the 2021 fiscal year alone.
Is there an Illinois Exodus Plan to Help?
Thankfully, Illinois has a plan. Well, a five-year strategic plan to help with the recovery. Will it work? No clue, lol. Moreover, I’m not looking to get in a debate about politics or the economy here. 🙂 All I’m saying is the state has massive debt and low savings that led to higher costs of living for residents not to mention greater racial disparities and slow job growth. Sigh.
Chicago Blogger Exodus
In many ways, I believe part of the perception of a Chicago exodus among friends and readers was due to Windy City bloggers moves. From Liz and Dave Adams (now Charleston) to Jocelyn Delk Adams (now Atlanta), Jenna Colgrove (now LA/OC) to John Philp Thompson III (now NYC), Olivia Rink (now Kentucky) to Shaheen Kahn (now Louisville) and Blair Staky (now Denver), we lost some of incredible (and frankly some of my fave people in the industry) to other destinations.
In fact, there was a time when I thought the entire Windy City blogger scene would implode. No joke. Every conversation at events revolved around people’s potential relocation moves. It started to feel like I may be the only one left holding down the fort, which was sad and unnerving.
Thankfully, people have stayed, and I’m forever thankful for that fact (looking at you Kit, Anna, Hayet, Kelly and Mitch, Jess and Neal, Alaina, Danielle, Blake, Lauren, Jess, Leyla, Wes, Nicole to name truly just a few). Honestly, I can’t imagine a city without these people and so many others. Pretty please don’t move! 🙂
In the end, Chicago remains strong and while we’ve lost so many phenomenal people, we’re resilient.
Will We Leave Chicago?
No, not yet. Sure, the reasons listed above make Bob and I question if Chicago will be our home base for the next few decades. Plus, as a lifelong Windy City resident, I ADORE this city. Plus, we thankfully have stable jobs that we both value, love, and really enjoy. There’s no reason why we’d ever want to leave those positions (especially in Bob’s case).
However, during the pandemic, I wondered if the city should be our long-term (pre-retirement) plan. As someone who LOVES a remote work lifestyle (not to mention travel), I even considered finding a role that allowed/trusted me to work from anywhere. Or, since Bob has summers off, I’ve thought about relocating to one of our agency’s other office locations, especially Los Angeles (where all these photos were taken).
California has its own issues; we’re not ready to take those problems on either, lol. However, I’ve always had a strong affinity for southern California and feel very much at home when I’m there. In some ways, I hope we can balance a multi-city lifestyle in the coming years (i.e. living in two different cities within a given calendar year).
For all of the city’s bumps and bruises, highs and lows, Chicago is simply phenomenal. We’re planning to stay in the city proper for the next several years. At the same time, I’ve started to get a major itch to move out of the urban center into the calmer, serene-like suburbs.
Trust me, I know! We’re that basic trope of Gen X/Millennials buying in the city and ultimately moving to the suburbs. I get it, I get it! Haha. But I’m ready for more space, fresh air, a larger yard and just to open our windows without seeing a brick wall or our next door neighbors.
Illinois Exodus – In Closing
In the end, I’m rooting for our state and country to succeed. Moreover, I’m excited about the next chapter of our lives. While I’m not clear on where life will take us, it’ll work out in the end.
No major changes will happen for some time, but I have a feeling the next several years will bring a lot of transformations for us. The biggest question is where we’ll live (i.e. two cities or one), and where exactly those location(s) might be. At the same time, we are incredibly thankful to have a home and to be a position to make these decisions.
My heart aches over the home eviction moratorium that’s impacting 3.5 million households. Please know this post (and our current home decision process) is not meant to be tone deaf to the larger issues our country is facing. Everyone deserves safe, comfortable housing.
If you’re looking to help those who are struggling with housing and eviction, I recommend checking out JustShelter.org – a nonprofit that puts tenants facing eviction in touch with local organizations that can help them to remain in their homes.