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America's Shrinking City: Chicago's Population Decline Continued In 2016

By  Tanveer Ali and Peter Jones | May 25, 2017 5:28am | Updated on May 26, 2017 9:16am

CHICAGO — Chicago lost an estimated 8,638 residents in 2016, the third consecutive year the city saw a dip.

The city led all American cities in population loss, an expected title after the U.S. Census Bureau released data earlier this year that Cook County as a whole lost an estimated 21,000 people last year.

Chicago has lost just 0.3 percent of its population since 2015, but 2016 marked the year of its largest population drop in a three-year slump. In 2015, the population dropped about 4,934 people, and the year before it dropped by 357 people.

The decline can be seen as a sign of concern, according to researchers who have noted that Chicago has been booming in other ways, like residential high-rise construction.

"There are places like Baltimore, St. Louis and Cleveland that have also lost people for consecutive years," said Alden Loury, director of research and evaluation at the Metropolitan Planning Council. "Chicago has seen a level of vitality that those cities have not."

Loury notes that population changes in the city have shifted in recent years. In the early 2000s, the city had a drain in both black and white populations. This decade, the black Chicago population is still decreasing, but the white population has rebounded.

"The trend is continuing as majority black communities have lost population," Loury said.

Both Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office and Gov. Bruce Rauner's office suggest political factors might be related to the population issues.

"Chicago's population grew each of the first three years the mayor was in office, but since taking office the governor has driven uncertainty in every corner of the state, and Chicago has not been immune from the effects," mayoral spokesman Grant Klinzman said. "The fact that the State of Illinois is leading the nation in population loss and the loss of college students is a direct result of a lack of leadership by Governor Rauner and the instability he has created."

Eleni Demertzis, spokeswoman for Rauner, pointed to some factors specific to Chicago.

"Let's review what's happened in Chicago the past two years under Mayor Emanuel: The city's property taxes and fees have skyrocketed; it has surging violence; and it has threatened to close schools due to decades of fiscal mismanagement," she said.