Growing up, if you would’ve asked me to leave Chicago I would have called you crazy, but to be honest… maybe I am the crazy one? The state of Illinois has lost over 33,700 residents from July 2016 to July 2017 and the stats continue to fall like bricks. We have recently lost our spot on the fifth most populated state in the country to Pennsylvania. Illinois has been recognized as one of the ten most expensive states in the U.S. alongside states like Hawaii, New York, and California. So why is Illinois experiencing a decline of residents? There are a variety of factors from high taxes, to state budget crises, to crime, as well as the cold weather that are influencing residents to run away.
Illinois moved up one spot on the outbound list to №1, ranking in the top five for the past nine years.
The top 10 outbound moving states of 2017 were:
2. New Jersey
3. New York
The study found that the Midwest continues to see more residents leaving than moving in, whereas the Mountain West and South regions saw more residents moving in than out.
The top inbound moving states of 2017 were:
5. South Dakota
7. South Carolina
8. North Carolina
Are you IL from Taxes?
There is no question that Illinois is among the highest taxed states in the country but let us dive deep and find out just how bad it is. According to CNBC, Illinois ranks 8th in the top 15 states throughout the entire country. Moreover, Illinois has a 2.13% property tax, which is only behind New Jersey, who is 49th in the entire country! Although the state sales tax is a manageable 6.3%, those who live in Chicago, the largest city in Illinois, pay sales tax of 10.25%. Chicago is tied with Long Beach, California for having the highest combined state and local government sales tax in the nation. However, there is a saving grace to this madness. I am one of the many individuals that believe that making marijuana legal would help counter balance the incredible amount of debt that Illinois is in. Illinois voters could get a say whether the state should legalize recreational marijuana if lawmakers decide to put the question on November ballots. I am anticipating a huge turnout for Illinois on this matter and who knows, maybe this will decrease the pace in residents leaving.
State Budget Crisis
Illinois has been trying to dig itself out of one the worst budget crisis the state has ever seen. According to the Associated Press, the state of Illinois still has about $7.5 billion dollars worth of unpaid bills. Although the state has been progressing in paying these bills, with the lack of sufficient funds for this enormous debt, new bills are coming in that are just as much as what the state just paid; it’s practically a never-ending cycle. According to Olmstead from Slate Magazine, big part of the reason why these unpaid bills have been piling up was due to the stalemate between the Republican governor and the Democrats in control of the General Assembly. Why do we blame them? Well, for more than two years, both parties battled it out and were unable to come to a unified decision on passing a constitutionally mandated budget. While the two parties failed to come to an agreement, the amount of past-due bills that Illinois was racking up tripled. How does this impact the residents of Illinois? Well, with the state being in debt and establishing budgets to help pay bills, the state finds creative ways to squeeze money out of the residents. For example, red light cameras started to appear in the metropolitan areas of Illinois is 2003. The purpose of these red light cameras was to ensure that drivers view the red light as a command rather than a suggestion, however, safety quickly flew out the window once the government realized how much money they were making from red light camera tickets. I believe the Chicago Tribune said it the best, “how red light camera became a cash register for local governments.” Another method to help raise money for the budget was adding a garbage fee to water bill in the city of Chicago. Although residents in the surrounding suburbs already pay a garage fee, they aren’t as populated as Chicago, which has a population of about 2.7 million people.
Within the past few years, the crime rate in Illinois may have played a huge role in the decline of residents. As a Chicago native, born and raised, I have always viewed Chicago as a tale of two cities. What I mean by that is one half of the city is filled with crime, while the other half is filled with all the nice tourist attractions. You’ll find that the occurrence of violent crime in Chicago is 15.3% higher than the average rate of crime in Illinois and 18.6% higher than the rest of the nation. Similarly, crime involving property stands 56% higher than the remainder of the state of Illinois and 30% higher than the nation’s average. Both of these statistics relate to how safe residents and businesses are while performing everyday activities in the Chicagoland area. With Chicago getting a lot of media coverage when it comes to crime, believe it or not, other cities have worse rates. For example, Baltimore and St. Louis are two cities that are not only suffering from high crime but in fact have higher crime rate statistics.
The city of two seasons
“Chicago has two seasons: winter and construction,” is a common saying I’ve heard growing up in the city. Chicago and other cities near the northern part of Illinois tend to have crazy weather. Chicago is right by Lake Michigan, which means the city gets hit hard by lake effects. Traveling south of the state, the weather lightens up a bit but overall, Illinois has what Illinoians like to call “bipolar weather.” You can practically experience all four seasons in a week. The two seasons that exist in Chicago is winter and summer. The city breezes through fall and spring leaving us with no break between turning off the heat and turning on central air. People have died in both of the extremities in Chicago. I remember in 2015, there was a crazy winter blizzard that killed people. According to the Chicago Tribune, during the 2015 blizzard, at least 13 individuals have died due to a heart attack as they shoveled snow. The heat that sizzles the skin in summer can kill too. Chicago has yet to see a heat wave like the one in 1995 that claimed the lives of 700 residents, but doesn’t mean the summer don’t kill as much as the winters. As a kid, I remember loving the winter. I would go outside and have snowball fights with my friends. It was added bonus when school with close and we would have a snow day. But as a working adult, there are no snow days. We have to get up earlier than normal just so we can prepare for the horrendous commute to work in winter conditions. I am only 26 years old and I am already over the weather in this city. I am sure there are other residents like me who are doing their research and looking at other places to live. With the money guzzling taxes, the ridiculous debt, and the gun violence epidemic, the weather in this state can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, especially for Chicagoans.
Chicago is the third largest city in the United States. Since the late 1800s, Chicago’s population has grown, making it slightly behind Los Angeles. The statistics in this graph depict the uphill and downhill battles Chicago has with crime. With Chicago being a very populated city, race battles were fought here and impacted the crime rate. There is a correlation between population and crime in Chicago. Obviously, with murder, the population decreases, however, it continues to decrease because people are moving away from the violence. For example, from the 1990s to 2000, the population in Chicago had a 4.03% growth rate. This correlates with the decrease of murder rate in the city. When moving to a new city, one of the many aspects that a person looks for in a city is the crime rate. Seeing that Chicago’s crime rate was decreasing over the years, people began to view Chicago as a city they can live in happily. The amount of jobs that the city provided for its inhabitants and its beauty, made Chicago a destination to live. Although violence was still present in the city, people surpassed that and continued to increase Chicago’s population. However, after the 2010s, there has been another up spike in crime rates, specially murder.
According to the Chicago Police Department statistics, majority of the crimes committed are gang related. Chicago is a city that is known for its gang violence and gang activity. It has been an issue since the late 1960s. These statistics show that these murders happen in the city and have been happening more frequently in recent years. This demonstrates that violence can possibly be a reason why people are leaving the city and leaving the state of Illinois entirely. With the increase in property and sales tax, the bipolar and unpredictable weather, the amount of violence that occurs in Chicago can be what pushes people to leave. Although all crimes must be considered to calculate crime rate, murder is the most dangerous one and can have the biggest impact on the decrease of population in multiple ways.