Illinois census data shows vibrant growth in suburbs
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 16, 2011 - The state of Illinois may be losing a congressional seat, but the latest census numbers show that the state can take heart in that it remains the nation's fifth most populous state.
Probe a bit deeper, and it's also clear that Illinois is experiencing many of the population shifts seen elsewhere in the country:
- The suburbs continue to rule, experiencing the state's biggest jumps in growth over the past 10 years. The Chicago suburbs saw the most dramatic growth, percentage-wise, along with Monroe County in Metro East.
- Hispanics have surpassed African-Americans as the state's largest ethnic minority.
- The largest percentage growth is among Asians, who have seen their numbers increase by 38.6 percent over the past 10 years. Still, Asians make up only 4.6 percent of Illinois' population. Overall, the new census numbers released this week show Illinois with a population of 12.8 million, up 3.3 percent from 10 years ago, when census figures gave the state a population of roughly 12.4 million. Click here to see amap.
- But the bulk of the growth over the past decade was in Chicago's collar counties, particularly Will (up 34.9 percent), Kane (up 27.5 percent) and Kendall (up a whopping 110.4 percent).
In southern Illinois' Metro East, the highest percentage growth was in Monroe County, which saw an increase of about 20 percent. But even so, Monroe's 2010 population of 32,957 remains a fraction of the total in the Metro East. (Waterloo is Monroe's county seat.)
Arguably even more significant was St. Clair County's success in outpacing rival Madison County to become the Metro East's most populous county. (Belleville is St. Clair's county seat; Edwardsville is Madison's county seat.)
St. Clair's population of 270,056 in 2010 boosted its statewide ranking, making it Illinois' eighth-largest county. Madison County came in ninth, with 269,282 residents. Madison County had ranked eighth, with St. Clair right behind, after the 2000 census.
Andrew Theising, director of the Institute for Urban Research at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, said the Metro East growth signaled to him that "the future growth in the St. Louis region will be in eastern Illinois.''
Theising also agreed that Illinois' rural counties, which -- along with Chicago's Cook County -- experienced most of the regional population losses, stand to suffer the worst political fallout.
Central Illinois, he predicted, will likely remain the target of those Illinois politicians as they consider which part of the state loses that congressional seat.
Illinois' current 19 congressional seats underscore the population shifts. Five of those districts will shed population because they already have more people than will be allowed when the new 18 districts are drawn up. Of those five, all are in northern Illinois.
The congressional districts that most need to gain population are in Chicago and in rural Illinois.
HISPANIC GROWTH LARGELY IN CHICAGO AREA
More than 2 million Illinois residents identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino, making them 15.8 percent of the state's total population.
African Americans totalled just under 1.9 million, or 14.5 percent of the state's population, the census numbers show.
But the two groups are concentrated in different areas. African Americans were largest in three Chicago congressional districts -- the 1st, 2nd and 7th. The 1st and 2nd districts are on the South Side while the 7th district is is central Chicago. Hispanic residents were concentrated in Chicago's 3rd, 4th and 5th congresssional districts, in central Chicago just west of downtown. Those districts surround the 7th District.
African Americans were, by far, the largest minority group in Metro East's 12th congressional district, with 117,479 residents compared to 519,483 who identified themselves as white.
The number of Hispanics counted in the 12th was particularly small: 19,707.
Contact Beacon political reporter Jo Mannies.
Jo Mannies Beacon political reporter