The Wall Street Journal reports Chicago Population Sinks to 1920 Level

A larger-than-expected exodus over the past 10 years reduced the population of Chicago to a level not seen in nearly a century.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday that during the decade ended in 2010, Chicago’s population fell 6.9% to 2,695,598 people, fewer than the 2.7 million reported back in 1920.

After peaking at 3.62 million people in 1950, Chicago underwent a half century of decline that ended only when the 1990s boom years produced a small gain in the 2000 count. At that time, the city loudly celebrated its comeback.

But the recent recession accelerated a migration both to the metropolitan area’s farthest suburbs and to the Southern U.S. Chicago nonetheless is expected to remain the nation’s third-largest city, behind New York and Los Angeles and just ahead of Houston, for which final census numbers aren’t in yet.

The explosive growth of suburbs far outside Chicago produced huge gains in neighboring counties. Kane County grew by 27.5%, Will County by nearly 35% and Lake County by 9.2%, while DuPage grew a more modest 1.4%.

This population shift to traditionally conservative counties could alter the balance of power in both the state house and the Illinois congressional delegation.

The influx of residents to outlying areas could translate into additional Republican seats, though the arrival there of Chicagoans—particularly minorities—could make those regions more politically diverse. For instance, said University of New Hampshire demographer Kenneth Johnson, “DuPage County could become less Republican.” Mr. Johnson said his analysis of census data showed that metropolitan Chicago grew 4% to 9,683,000 people.

Anything that helps break Chicago’s grip on statewide politics is a good thing. This alone will not do it, but it cannot hurt.

The startling thing is Houston may pass up Chicago. So much for “second city”. Chicago may become “fourth city”.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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