Chicago Is Losing People: Here’s Why It’s Happening

The city of Chicago is losing people and a new study may reveal why. High taxes and a rising cost of living are part of the problem.

There has been a mass exodus in recent years of residents leaving high tax, high cost of living states and cities. With costs going up, lower income residents are finding themselves with little choice but to leave.

Some cities, such as San Francisco, have gotten so bad that residents are actively living in their cars and motor homes. California has towns that are running out of money. Connecticut is raising taxes to the point where citizens are heading south to Florida, a more friendly tax environment.

Chicago has not been immune from this trend. Nearly half of Chicago residents can’t afford their current living situation. The city is losing residents and it’s mostly due to higher costs that negatively impact lower income citizens.

For a third straight year, Chicago’s population has declined.  According to the Chicago Tribune:

An estimated 13,286 residents left the Chicago metropolitan area, which extends from the city to its suburbs and into parts of Indiana and Wisconsin

The data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau. While the decrease translates to a loss of less than 1%, it’s significant in terms of real numbers.

What Gives?

There are likely several factors which are contributing to Chicago’s population decline. However, data from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning paints a bleak picture of the growing income divide in the city.

Chicago is losing people

According to the agency’s report:

“These data suggest diverging migration patterns based on earnings.”

“…This highlights that the region’s available employment options, quality of life, or cost of living may better meet the needs of high-earners rather than lower-earning residents.”

As costs rise, Chicago is losing people. In an article posted to The Atlantic, Alana Semuels observes:

The disappearance of industrial jobs and the businesses that supported them jump-started a downward spiral in many neighborhoods. As joblessness began to rise, the neighborhoods changed from ones where most people were employed to ones where some people were employed.

A loss of blue-collar jobs; mostly factories and other industrial work is partially to blame for the growing economic divide in Chicago. As Semuels observes in her piece: economists believe that an educated population should filter down to the working class. It stands to reason that high-educated, high earning citizens will spend money which should therefore create jobs and opportunity for lower-income citizens. It just hasn’t worked that way.

Factories and manufacturing plants used to surround the city. Nowadays, they’ve mostly gone overseas, been downsized with the growth of automation, or moved elsewhere. This has left a growing divide in Chicago as cost of living gaps increase. 

Leaving Chicago?

Chicago is losing people. Where are they headed? As it turns out, all over. Fleeing the rising cost of living, many residents are moving to adjacent cities and some as far south as Texas or Florida.

If you’re looking to avoid the high cost of living in Chicago, give the City vs City app a try! Our cost of living calculator helps determine the real cost of living in your city. We examine your after-tax income, housing expenses, state and local taxes, and more.

As a result, you’ll see a detailed breakdown of the cost of living in your current city. Thinking of moving? Compare your current situation with another city of your choosing an see which one comes out ahead.

Chicago is losing people, but downloading the City vs City app is a win!