Chicago — Thousands of people leave the state of Illinois each year. Some Gen Z can understand why they aren’t ready to leave just yet.
Illinois’ population declined by a record 104,437 residents from July 2021 to July 2022, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It’s the ninth consecutive year of population decline for the state.
For Matt Deak, a 26-year-old resident of one of Chicago’s south suburbs, people are leaving the state for new job opportunities. Several of his friends from his alma mater, Northern Illinois University, have found better paying jobs in other states. He would’ve moved too if it was for a job opportunity he got after graduating from college. It allowed him to stay close to his hometown, his family and childhood friends.
“I’m really just one of the lucky ones,” he said. “ My situation is definitely rare. So for most people, after graduating from school, you're looking for what you can get and that’s often out of state.”
Devin, a 24-year-old from Country Club Hills, said he’s staying in state to be close to his family as well. But if he had the means to move them all he would.
“I think it’d be nice to get a fresh start somewhere else,” he said. “I’ve been between the south suburbs and Chicago all my life. It’s been cool but I’d like to go somewhere warmer and cheaper.”
Illinois ranks 17 on an average cost of living list for 2022. While other states report a higher cost of living, Devin can see how Illinois’ ranking can make it look unattractive to newcomers and long time residents.
“I know things are getting expensive everywhere but I bet some people are like ‘why go there when I could go somewhere down south with nicer weather and better prices.’”
That’s what Gabe is considering. He’s a 25-year-old aspiring teacher, eyeing school systems in Texas.
“I really like the culture down there, plus I have a few friends who recently moved there,” said the Chicago native. “It’ll be sad to leave this city. But I’ve got to do what’s right for me.”