Chicago lost a hefty 200,000 residents in the last decade, most of them African-Americans, while suburban counties grew dramatically in numbers and diversity, according to 2010 census data released Tuesday.
People continued to spread out far from the region's urban hub, as thousands flocked to Will, Kane and McHenry counties, all of which experienced a second decade of vigorous double-digit growth, the numbers showed.
"I think these data from here and elsewhere in the country reflect that the United States has become a suburban nation," said Scott W. Allard, a University of Chicago associate professor of social service administration. "It is a continuing migration from the city out to the suburbs while there are also immigration waves directly to the suburbs as well."
In the 2000 census, Latino immigration fueled a modest 4 percent population increase in Chicago, marking the city's first decade of growth since the 1940s.
This time around Chicago's Latino population was up just a little more than 3 percent. The white population was down a bit, while black numbers dropped nearly 17 percent.
Latinos and Asians accounted for the metropolitan area's biggest population increases during the 2000s. In both cases, the biggest gains for those groups were in collar counties, not in the city or suburban Cook County.
"The biggest (change) is finding more minority people in different places in the metropolitan area where you didn't used to find them," said Jim Lewis, a demographer and senior program officer at Chicago Community Trust. "That and the loss of black population in the region and the state."
The census information isn't yet complete enough to track where blacks who left the city went, Lewis said. The figures indicate some have moved to suburbs, but a slight decline statewide suggests some African-Americans have been moving out of the region entirely, Lewis said.
Carried by the collar counties, the population of the six-county Chicago region grew almost 3 percent during the decade, to 8.3 million. That's down significantly from the region's 11 percent growth in the 2000 census.
Some of that slowdown was chalked up to the economy going south late in the decade.
"There was just a big boom and then we got to the end of the bubble," said Dennis Sandquist, director of planning and development for McHenry County, who attributed some of the slowdown to the downturn in the economy. "Our hope is that when things pick up, it picks up to a sustainable rate of growth."
Despite the slower rate of growth, demographers said people continue to be drawn to ever more remote suburbs by job opportunities, affordable housing and better-funded school districts.
"Looking at the whole metro area, we are up over a quarter of a million people, which shows that we remain as an attractive place to people," said Matt Maloney, deputy chief of staff for policy development for the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. "We anticipate other metro areas in the Middle West will show that they are having trouble maintaining population, so that is a plus for us."
DuPage County, long the region's epitome of booming suburbia, barely grew at all. The county lost about 45,000 white residents, which was offset by more African-American and Asian residents.
"You could say that Kane County is the DuPage County of yesterday," said Rob Paral, a Chicago demographer. "The things we're saying about Kane County today is what we said about DuPage County 20 years ago."
Chicago wasn't the only place in Illinois to experience population drain. A number of rural counties through the state also saw population dips. Overall, the state grew just 3.3 percent during the decade, to 12,830,632.
That will cost the state one of its 19 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Chicago's population decline could also have consequences for its residents, according to Allard.
"The city will likely have to prepare for some cuts in federal grants based on population formulas, perhaps tens of millions of dollars over the next decade," he said.
For the second decade, Aurora and Joliet experienced dramatic growth. Aurora (197,899) passed Rockford (152,871) to become the state's second-biggest town, while Joliet moved up three places to No. 4, with 147,433 residents, nearly 40 percent more than in 2000.
In those cities and others, Latinos found homes far from the city's traditional ethnic enclaves.
According to Sylvia Puente, executive director of the Latino Policy Forum, some of those newcomers have achieved middle-class status that enables them to seek out better housing stock and schools.
But most, she said, have followed the development in the suburbs to work as landscapers, cooks, housekeepers and other blue-collar jobs.
"We've continued to see that all the Latino demographic growth that has been outside the city while the city's (Latino growth) has been flat," Puente said.
DuPage County "is now part of the old inner ring of communities, with all the characteristics of older Cook County communities," said Lewis of the Chicago Community Trust. There has been an aging process there, with lots of empty nesters and a decline in white population."
Cook County's population loss could have been even worse if it had not been for the recession and crash of the housing market, said Kenneth Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire who was for many years based at Chicago's Loyola University and continues to study the city's population trends.
"Migration data suggest that the … loss from Cook County slowed precipitously near the end of the decade because the number of people migrating out of the county slowed," Johnson said. "This occurred because the recession had the effect of freezing people in place due to their reluctance to try and sell homes or change jobs because of the difficult economic situation."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun