Census estimates say Lake County’s population declined since 2020

Lake County’s population has steadily declined since 2020, according to the most recent estimates from the U.S. Census, marking a change from the population growth experienced by the county in the first two decades of the 21st century.

Population for the suburban county north of Chicago reached its peak to date in April 2020, at 714,336 people. As of July 1, 2023, the number of people in the county decreased by 0.8%, or about 5,500 people, to 708,760, according to the U.S. Census.

While the 2020 census counted responses from household surveys, the annual estimates between the 10-year counts are based in part on counting births, deaths and moves in and out, using the number of tax returns and Medicare filings.

Senior policy analyst at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) Elizabeth Ginsberg said it’s hard to know where people are moving right now.

“I think we also kind of try to take these annual estimates with a grain of salt because it’s pretty easy to estimate births and deaths, and it’s very, very challenging to estimate migration,” she said.

National population trends are occurring in the Chicago metropolitan area in their own way, Ginsberg noted. People are increasingly moving out of older, legacy, industrial cities in the Midwest and Northeast, and into faster-growing metropolitan areas along the coasts and in the Sunbelt.

The country’s population is also getting older and having fewer children, a trend seen locally as well, she said.

For the past few years, Lake County has experienced natural growth as there have been more births than deaths, Ginsberg noted. There’s also been a “modest positive increase” in international migrants, the analyst added.

However, the Census Bureau is showing a negative domestic migration, or people moving out of the county to elsewhere in the region, state or country, Ginsberg said.

At the start of the century, Lake County was experiencing a rise in population, according to archival data from the U.S. Census. In 2000, the population was 644,599; 10 years later it was 703,462.

“The growth we saw 20 years ago was kind of abnormal for the overall trend of the region, really, a period of rapid growth for the region,” Ginsberg said. “We’re just kind of expecting slow growth from here on out.”

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