Rural Illinois Marks Population Increase

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), August 23, 1996 | Go to article overview

Rural Illinois Marks Population Increase


Rural areas of Illinois experienced a widespread population rebound between 1990 and 1995, according to a new study by Kenneth M. Johnson, demographer and professor of sociology at Loyola University Chicago, and Norman Walzer, director of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, Western Illinois University. The study takes an in-depth look at current rural conditions and provides insights into what rural areas might expect during the remainder of the decade.

Rural Illinois gained nearly 24,000 residents in the past five years, according to Johnson's and Walzer's analysis of recently released U.S. Census Bureau data. In all, 47 of Illinois' 74 rural counties are now growing.

"While these gains are modest, they represent a significant change from the substantial population losses in the same areas during the 1980s," Johnson said. "Between 1980 and 1990 only 4 of the 74 non-metropolitan [rural] counties gained residents and overall, rural Illinois lost more than 110,000 people."

Johnson reports that population growth occurred in both urban and rural Illinois between 1990 and 1995. However, only the non-metropolitan regions of the state experienced a net inflow of migrants. Urban Illinois actually suffered a net outflow of migrants.

Rural Growth in Illinois Similar to National Trend

"The pattern of growth in Illinois has also been similar to that in the Midwest and across the U.S., with both migration and natural increase contributing to the overall population gains," Johnson said.

While population growth numbers in non-metropolitan areas of Illinois during the early 1990s have in fact been lower than those in other Midwest and national non-metropolitan areas, Johnson and Walzer report that the overall growth represents a significant reversal of "typical" migration trends. In addition, the study shows that the natural increase which traditionally fueled the growth of non-metropolitan areas in Illinois has diminished, just as it has nationwide. If this continues, Johnson reports that a new era for rural growth in Illinois; may begin.

Johnson and Walzer attribute part of the non-metropolitan population gain to urban spillover into surrounding rural areas, but widespread migration gains in non-adjacent counties reveal that more than spillover is involved. It also reflects that non-metropolitan manufacturing employment in rural counties has been strong.

Quality of Rural Communities Attractive for Elderly and Young

According to Johnson and Walzer, the elderly and the young are of particular interest when planning for service needs in rural areas. …

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