Every five minutes, Illinois loses a resident to another state. And data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveal what’s at the top of movers’ minds.
Here’s a hint: It’s not the weather. Survey data point to economic reasons.
Among Americans who made moves of 500 miles or more from 2014 to 2015, nearly half cited employment-related reasons as the primary motivation for moving, according to census survey data. Another 21 percent of long-distance movers said housing-related reasons spurred them to pack up and ship out.
Family reasons caused 27 percent of respondents to move, and the remaining 3 percent of long-distance movers said “other” reasons drove their decisions. Virtually all of these 500-mile-plus movers left home for a different state.
Proponents of Illinois’ status quo often seek to dismiss the state’s migration woes as the inevitable loss of retirees to warmer climates. But while retirement is considered an “employment-related” reason for moving, and could drive a sizable share of long-distance moves, census data show a mere 1 percent of all moves between 2014 and 2015 were driven primarily by retirement. Even fewer moves were driven by climate.
For all moves of any distance from 2014 to 2015, movers cited each of the following reasons more often than retirement and change of climate combined:

  • New job or job transfer
  • Lost job or looking for work
  • To be closer to work
  • Other job-related reason
  • Wanted a new or better home or apartment
  • Wanted a better neighborhood or less crime
  • Wanted cheaper housing
  • Other housing reason
  • Wanted to own home, not rent
  • Change in marital status
  • To establish one’s own household
  • Other family reason

In terms of both jobs and housing, Illinois is one of the worst places in the nation to put down roots. The Land of Lincoln finds itself in a 17-year jobs depression while residents shoulder the nation’s second-highest property tax bills – often more expensive than a homeowner’s mortgage.
And losing residents isn’t just a people problem. Losing border wars means budgets become harder to balance. If Illinois had simply broken even on domestic migration between 1995 and 2014, there likely wouldn’t be much of a budget problem in a state making national headlines for lacking one.
Illinois’ biggest budget problem is taxpayers leaving the state.
And census data demonstrate that stemming the flow of residents to greener pastures means Illinois lawmakers must pursue bold, pro-growth solutions to right their state’s economic ship.
Until then, expect moving vans to continue leaving the Land of Lincoln in the dust.

Austin Berg