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Urban Exodus: Cook County Loses 88,000 Residents

By Olivia Leigh in News on Mar 23, 2007 4:30PM

When you think of cities you might like to get out of, which ones come to mind? New Orleans, still suffering from hurricane damage? Sure. Detroit, where the floundering auto industry is creating unrest? Of course. But Chicago? We know the CTA has some huge issues, that the job market isn’t the greatest, and that our sweltering summers and frigid winters can create feelings of ill will, but surely it’s a worthwhile place to reside, right?

Not entirely so, according to Census estimates released yesterday. According to the new data, Cook County has experienced the third-largest decline in population in the entire country, falling just behind counties surrounding the aforementioned cities.

2007_03_trombone.jpgSince 2000, the Census Bureau estimates that a whopping 88,000 residents said “adios” to the county limits. Despite the Cook County declines, on the whole the greater metropolitan area has actually fared quite well, experiencing dramatic population growth in outlying areas, especially those counties encompassing the outer edge of the ’burbs.

Like falling dominos, residents of the city are moving to the suburbs, just as near-suburban residents decide to move even further away from the central core. For instance, Kendall County, about 40 miles southwest of the city, has experienced a population increase of 61.7 percent, making it the second-fastest growing county in the nation. However, the growth in the outlying areas isn’t just Cook County and near-suburban counties looking to move further out; rather, people from across the country are setting up house in the far suburbs and exurbs.

The Tribune cites cheaper housing and job growth in the more distant suburbs as the top factors that attract new residents, features that are understandable given the city’s problems in both areas.

Given our crowded public transportation options, our original reaction was a big “hooray!” Fewer people on buses and trains certainly makes us happy. But obviously, people leaving an urban area is of concern, for both social and economic reasons. Kermit Wies of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning also notes that in the future, providing water and “efficient transportation options” for those in the far suburbs will be a concern. With Metra and Amtrak trains packed and perpetually in need of funds, and long construction delays a regular occurrence on major highways, expanding the suburbs will soon be more difficult than simply building another cookie-cutter house.

Image from p2wy.