Chicago’s Large-Scale Exodus Is Both a Blessing and a Curse
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered almost every aspect of life, including how and where we choose to make a home. Between a new appreciation for our living spaces, a need to stretch our money farther, and record-low interest rates, metropolitan areas across the nation are seeing steep declines in residency. Chicago now bears one of the highest migration rates in the nation, a fact that could either revitalize surrounding areas or potentially complicate the economic situation in Illinois and beyond.
Chicago in the COVID-19 Era
Chicago’s population has been gradually declining for years now, but the COVID-19 pandemic may have exacerbated that migration. Over the past year, the metropolitan area saw some of the nation’s highest population losses, second only to New York City. It appears that Chicagoans are currently leaving the city in record numbers for an array of more sparsely populated areas.
Historically, city dwellers were willing to sacrifice affordability, space, and other amenities for the many perks that city living could provide. Amid stay-at-home orders and social distancing regulations, however, it’s a different story. Between high unemployment rates, the convenience of remote work, and a need for additional space and amenities, a portion of people are giving up on city living and pursuing a higher quality of life elsewhere. Record-low interest rates are also pushing many to make the move sooner and more suddenly than they may have otherwise.
What Does a Declining Population in Chicago Mean for the Rest of the State?
As Chicagoans move away from the Windy City, some are settling in nearby suburban and rural areas while others are relocating out of state. Those who stay relatively close to home could help bolster the local economy, injecting nearby neighborhoods with new energy, community, and capital. These relocations “share the wealth” that the city is known for, particularly if some continue working for their Chicago-based companies from their new neighborhoods.
Chicago is home to Discover, Hyatt, and CDW headquarters, recently voted some of Glassdoor’s “Best Places to Work.” These three companies are currently hiring for both in-person and remote positions with 140 jobs up for grabs. The opportunity to bolster professional accomplishments at a profitable and highly-respected company paired with the charm, affordability, and square footage provided by suburban and rural communities could very well convince some Chicagoans to stay within the state.
On the other hand, many former residents are leaving Illinois entirely. Between job opportunities, affordability, space, family, and other draws, Texas and Florida are looking more attractive for many. These relocations could have more significant effects on the state and, as Chicago is the economic powerhouse of the Midwest, potentially the entire region.
One caveat to consider is that a portion of these moves may be temporary. Some relocations can be attributed to immediate circumstances or the freedom and opportunities afforded by remote work positions as opposed to permanent moves. We’ll know more as the local economy continues to improve and open back up, but 2020 population losses could potentially be somewhat of an anomaly.
The good news is that despite declines in the Chicago metro area, local markets across the state remain hot. As the local economy regains some momentum, activity could very well return to the Windy City shortly. Either way, from the burgeoning South Side to the nearby suburban areas, there are still plenty of opportunities to serve your fellow Illinoisans in this truly unique market.
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