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McLean County fares well in latest Census data on births, deaths and domestic migration

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Ralph Weisheit
WGLT file
New Census data show Bloomington-Normal hasn’t been as hard-hit as other Illinois metro areas when it comes to people moving out of the area, including out of state.

More people were born than died in the Bloomington-Normal area over the past year—bucking a national trend toward population decline that’s been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The data on births and deaths was part of a release last week by the U.S. Census Bureau.

It showed more than 73% of U.S. counties experienced natural population decrease in 2021, meaning more deaths than births happened there. That’s up from 55.5% of counties in 2020. The Census said that fewer births, an aging population and increased mortality – intensified by the pandemic – contributed to the rise in natural decrease.

McLean County was an outlier. Here, 1,663 people were born and 1,474 people died in the year ending July 1, 2021, Census data show. That’s a natural change of 189 people.

McLean County's official population estimate was 170,889 people as of July 1, 2021. That's up 19 people from the year before. Illinois, as a whole, lost 113,776 people over that time.

Domestic migration

The new data also demonstrate that Bloomington-Normal hasn’t been as hard-hit as other Illinois metro areas when it comes to people moving out of the area, including out of state.

Illinois lost around 151,512 people to domestic migration (people moving from one area to another within the U.S.) in the past year. Illinois had the third-highest net domestic migration loss in the country, with 65.7% of counties losing people to other U.S. locations.

McLean County lost 579 people who moved elsewhere in the U.S. in the past year. However, that’s only 0.3% of the population. That’s a smaller share than what other metro areas in Illinois experienced, including Chicago (-1.3% lost to domestic migration), Decatur (-1.2%), Peoria (-0.9%), Rockford (-0.8%), and Champaign-Urbana (-0.4%), according to Census data.

Across the U.S., there was a shift from larger, more populous counties to medium and smaller ones, the Census said. These patterns contributed to population increases in 1,822 counties (58.0%), while 1,313 (41.8%) lost residents, and eight (0.3%) saw no change in population.

The economy, of course, plays a big part in these trends. Bloomington-Normal historically records a lower unemployment rate than other metro areas in Illinois, with its economy insulated by relatively stable employers such as State Farm and Illinois State University. The electric automaker Rivian has bolstered the local economy, hiring over 4,600 workers in Normal and rapidly becoming McLean County’s third-largest employer.

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Ryan Denham is the content director for WGLT and WCBU.
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