The U.S. Census Bureau’s recently released data from the 2020 census offer a glimpse into population and demographic shifts in northeastern Illinois.
The first release of 2020 census data shows that the region continued its trajectory of prolonged slow population growth, increasing by 1.7 percent between 2010 and 2020. All seven counties in the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) region grew despite statewide population decline; Illinois was one of only three states that lost population over the last 10 years.
In northeastern Illinois, population shifts varied by geography as well as race and ethnicity. The region continued to diversify, with significant growth in the Hispanic and Asian populations. However, given persistent net declines of Black and white residents, the CMAP region continues to lag behind many other large metropolitan areas.
Recent population growth lags behind peer metropolitan areas
Prior to the 2020 census, the bureau’s Population Estimates Program* had predicted declines in the region. While all seven counties in the CMAP region experienced population growth between 2010 and 2020, the highest growth rates were in Kendall and Will counties, which increased by 14.9 percent and 2.8 percent, or 17,100 and 18,800 residents, respectively. Growth rates for the remaining counties in northeastern Illinois ranged from 0.2 to 1.7 percent.
Still, further analysis shows that the region’s slight growth continues to trail comparable metropolitan areas. When indexed to 1970 in the graph below, metropolitan Chicago’s population growth trajectory has been similar to that of older, established regions. However, northeastern Illinois had the lowest growth rate over the last decade, adding only 1.7 percent or 146,000 residents, compared to metropolitan areas like Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, which grew by 4.7 percent, 6.6 percent, and 8.5 percent, respectively. This is evidenced by the continued upward trajectory of these lines on the lower right corner of the graph compared to the flatter line for the CMAP region.
Large growth in Hispanic and Asian populations across the region
Northeastern Illinois continues to become increasingly diverse. Although the share of the population that identified as white and Black declined for the fourth consecutive decennial census, as shown in the chart below, the share of the population that identified as Hispanic** and Asian grew. Between 2010 and 2020, these populations grew by approximately 13.7 and 29.1 percent, respectively, adding nearly 400,000 residents. Consequently, the non-Hispanic white population now accounts for less than half — 48.5 percent — of the region’s population for the very first time.
Reaching this significant threshold can also be partly attributed to changes the U.S. Census Bureau made to the race and ethnicity questions on the 2020 census survey. The updated race question allowed people to provide additional written responses regarding their origin. This resulted in the classification of more residents, who previously identified as a single race (i.e., white or Black), as having two or more races. The chart below also shows that in the CMAP region, the share of the population that is considered “other,” including two or more races, nearly doubled between 2010 and 2020. This shift in the data is an acknowledgement and reflection of longstanding racial and ethnic diversity in the regional population.
Although some recent discussions have focused on the net migration loss of Black residents from Cook County and northeastern Illinois, other trends are also driving change in the region. The maps below show population shifts by race and ethnicity, revealing divergent trends throughout the region. Areas with high rates of overall population growth tended to benefit from growth across all races and ethnicities. In contrast, areas with small net shifts in total population (either a loss or gain between 0 and 5 percent) experienced more pronounced changes (either losses or gains greater than 5 percent) within different demographic groups, as illustrated in the maps below.
Specifically, compared to the net growth of approximately 146,000 residents, the region’s white population declined by over 327,000 residents between 2010 and 2020. The chart below shows population change by race for each county in the CMAP region. Most of the white population losses were concentrated in Cook County, which lost over 143,000 white residents or 44 percent of the total regional loss. DuPage and Lake counties lost 54,700 and 50,300 white residents, respectively, which accounts for nearly one-third of the overall change.
In comparison, while there was a regional net loss of over 69,000 Black residents, losses in Cook County were somewhat offset by small increases in Black residents in nearly every other county. Future census data releases will allow for further analysis to determine the extent to which these changes are driven by natural population factors (i.e., births and deaths) versus intra- and inter-regional migration.
These regional demographic shifts have two distinct spatial patterns (the slider allows for comparisons between 2010 (left) and 2020 (right) population density by race). Between 2010 and 2020, previously established Hispanic and Asian communities and neighborhoods continued long-term trends of growing larger and becoming more concentrated. The number of Hispanic and Asian residents in the collar counties also continued to grow. The share of census tracts where more than 25 percent of the population is Hispanic grew by 18 percent. The share of census tracts where more than 25 percent of the population is Asian nearly doubled over the same period.
CMAP will continue to analyze 2020 census data that becomes available
ON TO 2050, the region’s long-range plan, aims to promote inclusive growth. Understanding population trends and demographic shifts will be critical to developing and implementing policies and programs that support communities throughout northeastern Illinois.
The U.S. Census Bureau has indicated more demographic and housing characteristics will be made available in 2022, while detailed age, income, and migration data are typically released on a rolling basis by state. CMAP will continue to analyze 2020 census data for Illinois and metropolitan Chicago as those numbers are released.
CMAP will also monitor expert analysis of the implications of the many challenges the bureau faced in administering the 2020 census, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of new technologies, and other factors. In particular, the bureau is expected to release data that will allow for additional analysis on the accuracy of the 2020 census survey. This will be helpful for understanding the extent to which hard-to-count populations — especially people with disabilities, non-English speakers, and communities of color — were undercounted.
* The Population Estimates Program produces estimates of population change, as well as housing and demographic changes, based on current data on births, deaths, and migration. The calculations are typically less accurate than the decennial census.
** For this analysis, Hispanic includes all Hispanic residents of any race. The other race groups discussed (white; Black; and Asian, Native Hawaiian, or other Pacific Islander) are exclusively non-Hispanic.