Recent Population Trends for Downstate Illinois Metropolitan Areas

by Dr. Bernard Goitein, Director, Center for Business and Economic Research
Winter 2005


The present data review considers factors associated with population changes in the 2000-2003 period of the six Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in downstate Illinois that are entirely in Illinois: Bloomington-Normal MSA, Champaign-Urbana MSA, Decatur MSA, Peoria MSA, Rockford MSA, and Springfield MSA. Job Graph Discussion of these metropolitan areas relies on the boundaries of these MSAs, as derived from the 2000 Census.

Economic growth can help drive population growth for an MSA. There is often a lagged impact of economic decline on population, however, so that job declines may result in substantial out-migration only after several years. The impact of the nation's recession of 2001 had persistent effects on Illinois, as the number of Illinois jobs dropped each year from 2000 to 2003, for a cumulative 3.8% decline by 2003 from 2000 levels. The population of Illinois nonetheless grew by 1.9%, as gains from births outnumbered losses from people moving out of state.

Downstate, four MSAs had fewer jobs in 2003 than in 2000 (Decatur MSA, Peoria MSA, Rockford MSA, and Springfield MSA), while two MSAs (Bloomington-Normal MSA, Champaign-Urbana MSA) showed job growth from 2000-2003. Taken together, there was an average decline of 4% in the number of jobs across the six downstate MSAs studied from 2000 to 2003 (see table). The population nonetheless Job Figures grew from 2000 to 2003 not only in the two MSAs with more jobs (Bloomington-Normal MSA and Champaign-Urbana MSA), but also in the Springfield MSA and in the Rockford MSA, with population declines found in the Decatur MSA and the Peoria MSA.

From 1991 to 2003 the number of clients served annually by the Turner Center programs increased nearly 500% from 149 clients in 1991 to 731clients for the year just ended.

Looking at the components of population change, the number of births exceeded the number of deaths in each of the six downstate MSAs in the 2000-2003 period. The MSAs with declining population (Decatur MSA and Peoria MSA) fell because of out-migration, where population losses due to out-migration outweighed population gains from births. Out-migration and population loss occur once residents lose confidence that the lost jobs will return to their area and then move away in search of work. Without a recovery in local job opportunities, residents would be expected to leave not only the Decatur and Peoria MSAs, but also the Springfield and Rockford MSAs.

Principal Cities of the MSA
It is instructive to consider the relationship between MSA population and the population of the largest city of an MSA. During the economic expansion of the 1990s, not only did many of the largest MSAs nationally grow, but so too did the central cities of the MSAs, so that growth was not only a suburban phenomenon, but growth of the city as well.

The national pattern of the 1990s was evident in Illinois' largest MSA, with growth of the Chicago suburbs and growth in the City of Chicago itself. In downstate Illinois during the 1990s, the average MSA grew, and so too did the largest city, on average. In four of the five growing MSAs of the 1990s, the largest city (Bloomington, Champaign, Rockford, and Springfield) grew also.

In the 2000-2003 period, four MSAs grew (Bloomington, Champaign, Rockford, and Springfield), as did the largest city in each of these MSAs. The declining MSAs of Decatur and Peoria also experienced declines in their largest city's population in the 2000-2003 period.

Projecting the 2000-2003 city population trends shows the projected populations for these cities in 2010. Strong growth is projected for the cities in the two areas that experienced recent job growth, Bloomington and Champaign. Without such job growth, the cities of Rockford and Springfield would be projected to show more limited population growth in the 2000-2010 period. Meanwhile the population declines of the 2000-2003 period for Peoria and Decatur signal further losses ahead.

The projections discussed are based on extrapolating the trends from the 2000-2003 period of job loss. If economic recovery boosts populations for the downstate MSAs later in this decade, both city and suburban populations should increase much as they did during the 1990s, when MSA growth downstate was associated with growth of the largest cities of the MSA (other than Peoria).

For comments or questions, please contact Dr. Bernard Goitein, CBER Director, at 309-677-2262.

*Peoria, Tazewell & Woodford Counties only