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Cook County's loss is collar counties' gain

Thursday, March 16, 2006
Chicago Sun-Times
by ART GOLAB Staff Reporter

Cook County lost 23,000 residents between 2004 and 2005, more than any oth er county in the country, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released today.
In contrast, southwest suburban Will County gained more than 25,000 people, with only 13 counties in the nation adding more residents during the same period.
And just a little further out, Kendall County was the third-fastest-growing county in the nation. Its population increased by 9.4 percent as it added 6,800 people, according to the census estimates.
The previous year Kendall, home to the communities of Oswego and Plano, was the second-fastest-growing county, getting an 8.3 percent boost in population.
Cook County, however, over the first five years of this decade, has lost 73,000 residents, according to the estimates. If accurate, those losses could have a ripple effect throughout the political and economic climate of the area.
"The people moving in to Cook County every year make $1.2 billion less than those moving out," said Loyola University demographer Kenneth Johnson, who has analyzed IRS and census data through 2003.
However, Marc Thomas, an information specialist with the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission, says the Census figures, at least for Cook County, should be taken with a grain of salt.
"We're not convinced it's happening," said Thomas. "We have forecast that by 2030 that Cook County will actually gain half a million people."
Thomas pointed out that throughout the 1990s the Census Bureau estimates showed Chicago and Cook County populations declining, but when the 2000 census came out, "both Chicago and suburban Cook County went up in population."
"We won't know for sure if Cook County is being accurately represented until 2010 rolls around and we get an actual count of every person." The Census Bureau bases its estimates on immigration statistics, IRS tax returns, birth and death records and other administrative statistics.
Inner suburbs see ch ange, too
Thomas, however agrees with the Census estimates showing high growth in the outer counties, because "it confirms trends already in place."
However, Loyola University's Johnson says the trend has shifted to favor the outer suburbs.
"There's a constant outward push of the population," he said. "With so many jobs now way out in the suburbs -- why not? Aside from young people who like the excitement and action of the city, there are lots of groups who would prefer a more suburban environment, especially for raising families."
Johnson said his studies show that people moving in to Cook County tend to be singles or young couples with lower incomes, and those moving out tend to be higher-income families with children.
Also, he said, half the white non-Hispanic children born in Chicago are no longer in the city by the time they reach school age.
"I think there's sort of a rippling going on as population begins to move out of the city. The inner suburbs are losing mostly middle-class non-Hispanic whites to the outer suburbs, and you can see from the data also the big growth is way out in Kendall and Grundy."
Eventually even DuPage County will be caught up in this trend, Johnson said.
"It is gaining people from Cook," he said, "but it is losing people to the outer suburbs, and the people who are moving further out have slightly bigger families [and] slightly higher incomes."
Cook 5,327,165 5,303,683 -23,482 -0.4 -73,058 -1.4†
DuPage 928,126 929,113 987 0.1 24,952 2.8†
Lake 692,869 702,682 9,813 1.4 58,326 9.1†
Will† 617,494 642,813† 25,319 4.1 140,547 28.0†
Kane† 472,761 482,113† 9,352 2.0 77,994 19.3†
McHenry 296,260 303,990† 7,730 2.6 43,913 16.9†
Kendall 72,704 79,514† 6,810 9.4 24,970 45.8

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