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Cook tops in population loss among counties in the U.S.

Thursday, March 16, 2006
Chicago Tribune
by John McCormick

Cook County lost more people between 2000 and 2005 than any county in the nation, according to Census Bureau estimates released Thursday that also show continued gains in suburban and exurban counties across the region and portions of the nation.

The new figures--based on administrative records and estimates for births, deaths and net migration--show the county lost more than 73,000 people, or 1.4 percent, since the last official count in April 2000.

The largest-loser designation can partly be attributed to Cook County's massive size, because raw numbers were used for the rankings. Still, among the nation's 10 largest counties, Cook, second largest with 5.3 million residents, was the only one to record a population loss during the 5-year period.

Even on a percentage basis, Cook's decline was large enough to rank it near the bottom quarter of all U.S. counties for population gains and losses.

The notion of fewer residents runs counter to the perception of growth fueled by condominium towers sprouting across Chicago's skyline. Still, demographers say they are often inhabited by singles, couples and empty nesters--smaller households than the families moving out.

In the collar counties, meanwhile, booming growth continued, especially in the metropolitan area's southwest section. Demographers say many of those moving out of Cook County end up there.

Kendall County, roughly 40 miles southwest of Chicago, recorded the nation's third-fastest percentage gain from 2004 to 2005, growing an estimated 9.4 percent, or by about 6,800 people.

Since 2000, the estimates suggest, the county's population has increased by 45.8 percent, addi ng nearly 25,000 people to grow to 79,514.

Will County, also in the metropolitan area's southwest corner, has grown 28 percent since 2000 and has an estimated 642,813 people. It ranked 14th nationally for numeric gain from 2004 to 2005, the only county outside the nation's rapidly growing South and West to make the top 20.

With a 6.5 percent increase, Grundy County southwest of Joliet ranked 11th nationally for percentage growth between 2004 and 2005. The estimates show it added 2,660 people to grow to 43,838.

Combined, Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will Counties grew 3.7 percent between 2000 and 2005. The seven counties are now home to an estimated 8.4 million.

Cook County's loss follows a 5.3 percent increase between 1990 and 2000, a period when Chicago grew by 4 percent.

"Chicago is not just losing population, but it's also suburban Cook," said Kenneth Johnson, a demographer at Loyola University Chicago.

After helpin g Cook County grow in the 1990s, Hispanics are now increasingly moving to the suburbs for jobs and more affordable housing, Johnson said.

Cook County lost population because 278,000 more people moved out of the county than moved in, Johnson said. But there were 205,000 more births than deaths, he said, resulting in the overall 73,000 population loss.

Other Rust Belt cities have seen even larger percentage declines.

Wayne County, Mich., which includes Detroit, has lost 3.1 percent of its population since 2000, falling below 2 million for the first time since before 1940. Philadelphia County, Pa., and Cuyahoga County, Ohio, which includes Cleveland, recorded even larger percentage drops between 2000 and 2005.

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