Illinois Exodus Accelerates With COVID-19

Since the advent of COVID-19, nearly twice as many residents are leaving Illinois than entering.

Key Findings

  • Since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020, nearly twice as many people have moved out of Illinois than those entering.
  • moveBuddha’s data from Jan 1 to Sept 23, 2020, indicates a 6.1% net increase in outbound domestic residents compared to 2019.
  • Based on interstate moving data in 2020, Illinois may see a loss of 10 people for every 1,000 residents.
  • Approximately 23.4% of the state’s interstate migration occurred during Illinois’ partial to full lockdown period (March 11 — May 31), while 61.6% occurred between June 1 and September 23.
  • The Top 3 states Illinois residents move to in 2020 are California, Florida, and Texas.
  • The Top 3 destination cities for Illinois residents in 2020 are Denver, Los Angeles, and Austin.

Illinois is losing residents at records levels

Since the advent of COVID-19, Illinois residents are leaving the state at faster rates than years before.[1] From January 1 to September 23, 2020, moveBuddha received 2,455 requests (37%) for assistance to move into Illinois and 4,822 (66.3%) requests to move out of state, meaning nearly twice as many people moved out of the state in 2020 than entered.

Additionally, our moving data from 2019 shows that 36.8% of Illinois moving requests represented inbound movers vs. 63.2% for outbound movers. In 2020, inbound movers dropped to 33.7%, and outbound movers increased to 66.3%— indicating a 6.1% net increase of outbound domestic residents from the previous year.

Estimated population of Illinois 2010–2019
Year Population Net pop. change Domestic migration International migration Net migration Rate per 1000 Rate of net migration
2010 12,830,632 8,931 -13,329 4,868 -8,461 N/A N/A
2011 12,867,454 36,822 -64,482 30,606 -33,876 -2.6 -2.6%
2012 12,882,510 15,056 -70,886 27,200 -43,686 -3.4 -3.4%
2013 12,895,129 12,619 -67,989 27,571 -40,418 -3.1 -3.1%
2014 12,884,493 -10,636 -94,721 28,835 -65,886 -5.1 -5.1%
2015 12,858,913 -25,580 -107,924 30,323 -77,601 -6.0 -6.0%
2016 12,820,527 -38,386 -113,179 24,509 -88,670 -6.9 -6.9%
2017 12,778,828 -41,699 -114,678 29,564 -85,114 -6.6 -6.6%
2018 12,723,071 -55,757 -113,699 20,260 -93,439 -7.3 -7.3%
2019 12,671,821 -51,250 -104,986 19,209 -85,777 -6.8 -6.8%

Data source: U.S. Census Bureau[2]

Timeline of COVID-19 amid Illinois exodus in 2020

Along with Washington and New York, the state of Illinois was effectively ground zero for much of the country’s initial exposure to COVID-19. The first travel-related case[3] in the United States appeared in Washington on January 15, 2020, with the second case occurring in Chicago on January 24.[4]

While isolated cases continued to appear in several states, little was known about the virus throughout February or how it would affect the U.S. By March 9, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker declared a state of emergency[5] after the state’s covid case number reached 11.

Shortly after The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, Gov. Pritzker ordered schools and nonessential services to shut down temporarily. Before the announcement, Illinois maintained a typical inbound vs. outbound moving rate of 33.6% vs. 60.3%.

Only after March 11, and with the implementation of Illinois’ stay-at-home order on March 20[6], did numbers go askew. For the last two weeks of March, outbound moving requests dropped to 39.7% while inbound requests rose to 66.4%.

Once April emerged, and the Gov. extended the state’s stay-at-home order to April 30 (and later May 31[7]), typical moving trends reemerged but in larger amounts. The month of April jumped from 4.1% to 6.8% the year’s total moving traffic and continued to climb into May (14.5%), June (17%), and July (17.7%).

Illinois inbound vs. outbound moving in 2020 (Q1—Q3)
Month Inbound Inbound (%) Outbound Outbound (%) Total Total TYD (%)
January 168 35.8% 301 64.2% 469 6.4%
February 143 30.3% 329 69.7% 472 6.5%
March 116 38.7% 184 61.3% 300 4.1%
April 167 33.9% 326 66.1% 493 6.8%
May 350 33.1% 708 66.9% 1058 14.5%
June 445 35.9% 793 64.1% 1238 17.0%
July 470 36.5% 816 63.5% 1286 17.7%
August 364 30.3% 839 69.7% 1203 16.5%
September 232 30.6% 526 69.4% 758 10.4%
Total 2455 33.7% 4822 66.3% 7277 100.0%

Data source: moveBuddha’s Moving Cost Calculator Data

Is there a link between outbound residents, pandemic panic, and unemployment?

As of October 20, 2020, Illinois is the fifth most-affected U.S. state with 356,000 COVID-19 cases and 9,551 covid-related deaths. Despite the Gov.’s early response, the state’s highest transmission rates occurred during its 72-day lockdown, where cases reached 52,918 by April 30 and 120,588 on May 31.[8]

Illinois’ unemployment rate simultaneously peaked in April (17.2%), May (15.3%), and June (14.5%), whereas the state’s initial unemployment rate held at a modest 3.4% for February and 4.2% for March.[9] Overall, the state’s spike in unemployment contributed to a year-over-year employment rate of -6.4% as of September 2020.[10]

Only after unemployment rates began decreasing in August, landing 10.2% in September, did the percentage of Illinois moving traffic drop as well. However, there isn’t a significant correlation between the increase of interstate moving, new COVID-19 cases, and unemployment rates. The only connection between all three factors is that the occurrence of the pandemic accelerated existing moving trends.

illinois 2020: interstate moves vs COVID-19 vs unemployment

Illinois 2020: Interstate moves vs. COVID-19 vs. unemployment
Month Total YTD Traffic (%) New Covid-19 cases (YTD % of state cases) Unemployment Rate (%)
January 6.4% 0.00% 3.5%
February 6.5% 0.00% 3.4%
March 4.1% 2.02% 4.2%
April 6.8% 15.80% 17.2%
May 14.5% 22.79% 15.3%
June 17.0% 8.11% 14.5%
July 17.7% 12.14% 11.5%
August 16.5% 19.19% 11.0%
September 10.4% 19.96% 10.2%

What else contributes to Illinois dispersal?

According to the Chicago Tribune in 2016, Illinois residents typically move to southern states with lower taxes and less winter.[11] But considering how most Illinoisians moved to states with similar or worse unemployment levels, it’s more likely that people leave to find more affordable housing.

Indeed, Chicago is a large tech hub with residents who now work remotely.[12] As more companies switch to remote-only employment, fewer people are likely to stay in large cities if they can earn the same salary and pay less rent.

It’s also possible that many Illinois movers originally migrated from other states to find work, as several moving destinations are associated with new Illinois residents. For example, 0.13% of Illinois’ estimated population in 2018 lived in California the year before.[13] Whether this estimate represents native Illinoisians or not, we can infer that a fair amount of people moved home in response to the pandemic.

Other relevant factors that may contribute to people leaving Illinois include:

  • University closures and remote education
  • Risks of homelessness
  • Family assistance
  • Access to health care or state assistance
  • Grievances with government or political climate

Which states did Illinois residents move to in 2020?

moveBuddha’s 2020 data indicates the majority of outbound Illinoisians relocated to historically popular states, such as California, Florida, Texas, or Arizona. However, we also noticed how the popularity of individual states changed after the advent of COVID-19.

Top states for Illinois residents before and after March 11, 2020
Rank State % of Illinois movers in 2020 % of Illinois movers (2019 — 3/11/2020) Previous rank (2019 – 3/11/2020)
#1 California 12.8% 13.0% #1
#2 Florida 11.2% 9.6% #3
#3 Texas 7.9% 9.7% #2
#4 Colorado 5.3% 5.7% #5
#5 Arizona 5.0% 7.1% #4
#6 Tennessee 4.1% 3.69% #8
#7 North Carolina 3.8% 3.51% #9
#8 Georgia 3.7% 4.82% #6
#9 Michigan 3.2% 1.23% #18
#10 Washington 3.1% 4.27% #7

Data source: moveBuddha’s Moving Cost Calculator Data
The state of New York dropped from the 2020 chart to No. 13, while Michigan rose nine spots from the 18th spot of 2019.

To develop an understanding of why Illinois residents move to these states, let’s compare Illinois against the Top 10 destination states regarding the following economic factors:

  • Taxed income (%): The average amount of income spent on state and local taxes.[14]
  • Average annual wage and median hourly wage: The annual mean wage and median hourly pay for all occupations in the state (as of May 2019).[15]
  • Minimum wage: State minimum wage for 2020 (Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour).[16]
  • Unemployment rate (%): The percentage of unemployment as of August 2020.
Illinois economy vs. the Top 10 destination states for 2020
Rank State 2020 Rate Taxed Income Average Annual Wage Median hourly wage Minimum wage Unemployment Rate
1 California 12.8% 10.3% $61,290 $21.24 $12.00 11.4%
2 Florida 11.2% 7.6% $47,750 $17.23 $8.56 7.4%
3 Texas 7.9% 8.7% $50,490 $18.28 $7.25 6.8%
4 Colorado 5.3% 8.8% $57,690 $21.28 $12.00 6.7%
5 Arizona 5.0% 8.2% $50,930 $18.46 $12.00 5.9%
6 Tennessee 4.1% 7.6% $45,650 $17.26 $0 8.5%
7 North Carolina 3.8% 9.0% $48,550 $17.75 $7.25 6.5%
8 Georgia 3.7% 8.4% $49,620 $17.75 $7.25 5.6%
9 Michigan 3.2% 9.1% $50,780 $18.60 $9.65 8.7%
10 Washington 3.1% 9.1% $62,020 $23.15 $13.50 8.5%
N/A Illinois N/A 10.7% $63,970 $19.74 $10.00 11.0%

Data sources: USA Today, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor

Data summary:

  • Illinois imposes higher income taxes than any other state in the Top 10.
  • The average annual wage in Illinois is higher than any Top 10 state, but this is likely due to higher living costs offset by Chicago.
  • Residents of Washington, Colorado, and California are more likely to earn more per hour than people in Illinois.
  • Minimum wage workers in Washington, Colorado, California, and Arizona earn more per hour than Illinois residents, although higher minimum wages often indicate higher living costs.
  • No other Top 10 state struggles with unemployment as badly as Illinois, although California is comparable with a 10.3% unemployment rate.

Which cities did Illinois residents move to in 2020?

Between January 1, 2019, and March 11, 2020, most outbound Illinois residents moved to cities like Seattle, Denver, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Austin. After March 11, however, several lower-ranking cities moved into the Top 10.

Top cities for Illinois residents before and after March 11, 2020
Rank City Total % of Illinois movers in 2020 Total % of Illinois movers between 2019 – 3/11/2020 Previous rank between 2019 – 3/11/2020
#1 Denver 4.5% 5.0% #2
#2 Los Angeles 3.1% 4.5% #4
#3 Austin 3.1% 3.1% #5
#4 Seattle 2.1% 5.1% #1
#5 Las Vegas 1.6% 0.8% #10
#6 New York City 1.0% 2.9% #6
#7 Phoenix 0.8% 5.0% #3
#8 Atlanta 0.7% 0.5% #14
#9 San Francisco 0.4% 2.6% #7
#10 Houston 0.3% 1.1% #8
(tie) Nashville 0.3% 0.5% #13

Data source: moveBuddha’s Moving Cost Calculator Data

As we can see, Atlanta held the No. 14 spot in 2019 before moving to No. 8 after March. Another surprising trend involves Las Vegas, which rose five spots from No. 10 in one year.

What our 2020 list doesn’t represent are the cities that held a top-spot in 2019 or nearly made the Top 10 before COVID-19. For example, Dallas initially had the No. 9 spot before plummeting to No. 25 in 2020. Portland, Oregon, and San Diego also came close both years but fell short of Nashville’s lead.

Why move from Illinois to a Top 10 city?

Now that we know where Illinois residents are moving to, let’s compare individual city demographic data[17] to Illinois’ largest metropolitan area: Chicago. For the following comparisons, let’s review:

  • Per capita income: The average reported income per capita between 2014—2018.
  • Household income: The median household income between 2014–2018.
  • Work travel time: The average travel time for work (in minutes) between 2014–2018.
  • Estimated monthly rent: The median monthly rent for city residents between 2014–2018.
  • Population: The city’s estimated population as of July 1, 2019.
  • Percentage with BA/BS or higher: The percentage of city residents over 25 with a Bachelor’s degree or higher (between 2014–2018).
Chicago demographics vs. the Top 10 destination cities for 2020
Rank City Per capita income Household income Work travel time Estimated monthly rent Population % with BA/BS or higher
#1 Denver $41,196 $63,793 25.4 $1,217 727,211 47.9%
#2 Los Angeles $33,420 $58,385 31.4 $1,376 3,979,576 33.7%
#3 Austin $40,391 $67,462 24.3 $1,225 978,908 50.4%
#4 Seattle $55,789 $85,562 27.8 $1,225 753,675 62.8%
#5 Las Vegas $29,304 $54,694 25.7 $1,057 651,319 23.9%
#6 New York City $37,693 $60,762 41.2 $1,396 8,336,817 37.4%
#7 Phoenix $27,870 $54,765 25.7 $999 1,680,992 28.2%
#8 Atlanta $43,468 $55,279 27 $1,099 506,811 49.9%
#9 San Francisco $64,157 $104,552 33.3 $1,805 881,549 57.1%
#10 Houston $31,576 $51,140 27.4 $990 2,320,268 32.1%
(tie) Nashville $33,139 $55,873 24.7 $1,033 670,820 39.7%
N/A Chicago $34,775 $55,198 35 $1,077 2,693,976 38.4%

Data source: U.S. Census Bureau

Data summary:

  • When it comes to average annual income (which often reflects the cost of living), residents of San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Denver, Austin, and New York City are more likely to earn more than those of Chicago. City residents who make significantly less live in Houston, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.
  • Between 2014 and 2018, Chicago residents spent slightly more time commuting to work than people in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle. The only city that topped Chicago was New York City with a mean commute of 41.2 minutes (nearly 1.5 hours a day).
  • Outbound residents of Chicago can expect to pay an average of $258 more per month in rent for most of the cities listed in the Top 10. The only cities with less median rent expenses are Las Vegas, Nashville, Phoenix, and Houston ($999–1,057).
  • Anyone from Chicago can expect to live with 1.5—3.1 times more people in Los Angeles and New York City. Denver, the No. 1 city, has about 73% fewer people than Chicago.
  • Seattle, San Francisco, Austin, Atlanta, Denver, and Nashville all had more people over the age of 25 with a Bachelor’s degree or higher than those in Chicago— indicating competitive job markets that require a 4-year degree.

Methodology

Illinois moving data comes from user searches through moveBuddha’s moving cost calculator. All user data reflects searches that occurred between Jan 1, 2019, and September 23, 2020.

Additional data sources include:

Sources:
[1]Reyes, Cecilia, and Patrick M. O’Connell. “There’s a lot of talk about an ‘Illinois exodus.’ We took a closer look at the reality behind the chatter.” Chicago Tribune, 25 Sept 2019. link
[2]“State Population Totals and Components of Change: 2010—2019.” U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce, Dec 2019. link
[3]“First Travel-related Case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus Detected in United States.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21 Jan 2020. link
[4]“Second Travel-related Case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus Detected in United States.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 Jan 2020. link
[5]Sun-Times Staff Report. “Pritzker announces 4 new coronavirus cases, declares state of emergency.” Chicago Sun-Times, 9 Mar 2020. link
[6]“Illinois’ Stay-at-Home Order Extended Through April, Pritzker Announces.” NBC Chicago, 31 Mar 2020. link
[7]Masterson, Sam. “Illinois stay-at-home order extended through May with some modifications.” NewsRadio 1120 KMOX. link
[8]“Covid in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count.” The New York Times, 20 Oct 2020. link
[9]“Economy at a Glance: Illinois.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor, Accessed on 15 Oct 2020. link
[10]“State Employment and Unemployment Summary.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor, 20 Oct 2020. link
[11]Eltagouri, Marwa. “Illinois loses more residents in 2016 than any other state.” Chicago Tribune, 21 Dec 2016. link
[12]Zumbach, Lauren, and Ally Marotti. “Pandemic changing the way of work — permanently for some.” The Detroit News, 30 Jun 2020. link
[13]“State-to-State Migration Flows.” U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce, 20 Jul 2020. link
[14]Stebbins, Samuel. “Which states in the US have the highest tax burdens? Many can be found in North, Northeast.” USA Today, 19 Apr. 2020. link
[15]“May 2019 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor, May 2019. link
[16]“Consolidated Minimum Wage Table.” U.S. Department of Labor, 1 Sept 2020. link
[17]“Quickfacts.” U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce, n.d. link

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