Exploring the 5 Counties in Illinois With the Most Rapid Population Decline
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Exploring the 5 Counties in Illinois With the Most Rapid Population Decline

Illinois has witnessed a significant decline in its population over the past few years, setting record lows. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the state experienced a decrease of 104,437 residents from July 2021 to July 2022, impacting all 102 counties.

Although the most substantial losses in terms of numbers occurred in densely populated counties like Cook, DuPage, Lake, St. Clair, and Kane, the swiftest rates of decline were observed in the state’s more rural areas.

This article will delve into the five counties that saw the highest percentage of population decline in Illinois and explore potential reasons behind their diminishing populations.

Alexander County

Alexander County is situated at the southernmost point of Illinois, sharing borders with the Mississippi River and the state of Missouri.

It holds the distinction of being the state’s smallest county in terms of population, tallying only 4,878 residents as of 2022. This represents a 16.8% decrease since 2010. The county’s population has experienced a consistent decline since the 1920s, when it peaked at 28,467.

Cairo, the largest city in the county, was once a bustling river port and railroad hub. However, it now stands as a poignant symbol of decay and decline, marked by the abandonment and deterioration of many of its historic buildings.

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Henderson County

Henderson County is situated in the western region of Illinois, bordering the Mississippi River and the state of Iowa. It ranks as the second-smallest county in the state in terms of population, with only 6,171 residents as of 2022, marking a decline of 14.9% since 2010.

The county’s primary urban center, Oquawka, which was formerly a thriving river town and served as the county seat, has experienced economic stagnation and decline. Many businesses and residents have departed from the area, contributing to its challenges.

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Perry County

Perry County is situated in the southern part of Illinois, within the region known as Little Egypt. With a population of 20,525 residents as of 2022, it ranks as the 68th-largest county in the state.

This represents a decline of 13.4% since 2010, marking a continuous decrease in population since the 1980s when it peaked at 25,414. Several factors contribute to the depopulation of the county.

These include the loss of key industries like coal mining and manufacturing, limited economic opportunities, the migration of the younger generation due to aging, health and social issues such as drug abuse and crime, and a lack of essential infrastructure and services, including transportation and recreational facilities.

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Lawrence County

Lawrence County, situated in the southeastern part of Illinois along the Wabash River and the state of Indiana, ranks as the 75th most populous county in the state. As of 2022, its population stands at 14,815, marking a 12% decline since 2010.

The county has experienced a continuous decrease in population since the 1960s, when it peaked at 20,452 residents.

Several factors have contributed to Lawrence County’s depopulation, including the loss of industries like oil and gas production and manufacturing, limited economic opportunities, the migration of the younger generation due to aging, health and social issues such as obesity and poverty, and insufficient infrastructure and services, such as broadband and education.

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Greene County

Greene County, situated in the central part of Illinois within the Illinois River Valley region, ranks as the 83rd most populous county in the state, housing 11,415 residents as of 2022. This figure reflects a decline of 11.8% since 2010, marking a trend of decreasing population since the 1950s, when the county peaked at 18,972 residents.

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Conclusion

The population decline observed in the five counties discussed in this article is not unique; in fact, 91 out of Illinois’ 102 counties experienced a decrease in population in 2022. This reflects a broader issue of outmigration and depopulation that has affected the state for several years.

Common themes contributing to this trend include the loss of industry and jobs, limited economic opportunities and growth, the departure of the younger and more educated population, as well as health and social problems like drug abuse and crime.

Additionally, inadequate infrastructure and services, such as broadband and healthcare, further exacerbate these challenges.  To counteract this trend, both the state and individual counties must implement policies aimed at enhancing Illinois’ appeal and affordability for residents and businesses.

This includes initiatives like lowering taxes, reducing regulations, improving education, investing in infrastructure, promoting innovation, and fostering civic engagement.

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With more than two years of expertise in news and analysis, Eileen Stewart is a seasoned reporter. Eileen is a respected voice in this field, well-known for her sharp reporting and insightful analysis. Her writing covers a wide range of subjects, from politics to culture and more.