Census Confirms Migration to Suburbs


For individuals in the real estate game, trends are often based on perception instead of figures, since most of the time figures are hard to come by or simply take too long to calculate. But you can 'feel' certain things happening in and around the Chicago real estate market.

Those feelings were confirmed by yesterday's release of 2010 Census data. If yesterday's data release was an awards show, Chicago would have been clapping politely while Aurora (now Illinois' second largest town with 197,899 residents) excitedly ran on stage to accept an award.

Certainly, census data always comes with a number of question marks. This batch is especially susceptible to debate because of the strong political movement that urged people to avoid filling out the census. In addition, since 2001, a heavy contingent of the U.S. Latino community has avoided filling out personal identification questionnaires for fear that immigration officials will begin using it to deport illegal residents.

But the big real-estate takeaways from the 2010 Census for the city of Chicago are (1) Chicago residents are moving to the suburbs and (2) the collar counties and suburbs that offer affordable housing and good schools are increasing their populations rapidly.

Much of this was expected, but now there's proof in the numbers. Chicago's population decreased by about 200,000 between 2000-2010, according to 2010 Census figures. That's a 6.92 percent drop, which will cost Chicago dearly in the form of fewer federal grant dollars (early estimates are in the $10-20 million range).

What percentage of that drop is due to the roller-coaster real estate climate during that decade? It's impossible to tell, but certainly inflated real estate prices have led to more people moving to the suburbs (it should also be noted that a high foreclosure rate likely contributed to the lower population figure). Joliet (38.8% increase from 2000), Aurora (38.4%), Bolingbrook (30.3%), Elgin (14.5%) and Naperville (10.5%) each experienced double-digit growth rates over the 10-year Census span.

In the end, a blow like this could cause city legislators to generate new ways to keep Chicago residents happier. However, with city budgets shrinking and Chicago Public Schools struggling, it may be a while before City Council gets to that part of its to-do list.


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  • Yeah, I left the city to go back to the countryside. The air smells better out here and I live 5-10minutes from where all the farmer's market produce originates. Chicago's still just a train ride away. :)

  • Learn how to build high-rise living more affordably and young people will stay in Chicago.

  • You are comparing apples with oranges. Chicago is landlocked. All the communities you sited as big gainers are cities that are building new housing on open land. I doubt the run-off from Chicago is what is filling those communities.

  • It's a pretty bad cycle because the suburbanites leech off the city for jobs, entertainment, and all of the cultural capital that comes with a big city, yet most of their money stays in their own upper middle class white kingdoms. Not to mention all of the government money that's spent building new roads and infrastructure while the CTA remains underfunded.

  • One thing people mention is the Blacks moved out more than other ethnic groups. It wasn't clearly stated whether to the suburbs or out of state.

    While some undoubtedly did for stated reasons of jobs or schools, no one has mentioned what the effect of {fill in epithet} Removal was, i.e. demolishing public housing, especially in the Dan Ryan corridor, without commensurate replacement with townhomes or the like, and giving the former residents Section 8 vouchers to move to Blue Island or Harvey.

    One also has to consider that much of the South and West Sides are still vast wastelands, while you can't say that for the North Side. Even if the populations of North Side neighborhoods moved north, there was a sufficient influx of other immigrant groups to maintain those areas.

    The last two points indicate that johnk is off base. Chicago may be landlocked, but has sufficient vacant land. Take the areas I mentioned on the South Side, or the South Works project, which still really hasn't gotten off the ground. I'll bet that Aurora's, Joliet's, and Elgin's population increase is overwhelmingly Latino; people aren't moving there for the semirurual lifestyle. While they might be doing so for Bolingbrook and Naperville, the recent housing market crash indicates that the homebuilding sprawl ends if there is no demand.

  • Seems like this Tribune article supports part of what I said above, especially with regard to the south and west sides, even though I didn't have the benefit of it yesterday.

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