Cook County population drop second-worst in country

Baseball season has begun and Cook County residents are going, going, gone by the tens of thousands, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest estimates.

The county lost 68,000 people between July 2021 and July 2022, the second greatest decline among all U.S. counties during that period, behind only Los Angeles County, which lost 91,000, according to estimates released on Thursday.

The county retained its status as second-most-populous (5,110,000) after Los Angeles County (9,720,000), but the 1.3% decline in population was a sharper blow than the 0.9% drop in Los Angeles.

Of the 47 counties in the country with 1 million or more residents, only four — Philadelphia, Kings (Brooklyn), Queens and Bronx — experienced sharper percentage declines. Bronx County had the sharpest decline, at almost 3%.

The estimates were drawn from the base population plus net migration, births and deaths.


Cook County’s decline, however, is not as sharp as last year’s (1.6%), thanks largely to international migration, according to demographers with the Census Bureau. An influx of about 18,000 immigrants helped to offset an estimated 94,000 residents lost via domestic migration.

The number of immigrants is the highest seen in Cook County since roughly 2011, according to demographer Kristie Wilder.

Between 2010 and 2017, the rate for international migration to Cook County was between 14,000 and almost 19,000. It dropped in 2018 and remained low through the pandemic.

The rate of decline for Cook County’s total population remains well above pre-pandemic levels, but the population has been shrinking since 2015, with a rate of decline hovering between 0.2% and 0.5%. During the pandemic, it jumped to over 1%.

Illinois as a whole experienced a 0.8% population decline from July 2021 to July 2022, with a total estimated loss of 104,000 residents.

Of the state’s 102 counties, almost all declined in population and, of the counties surrounding Chicago, only McHenry grew, gaining 155 residents. DuPage lost the most, losing 5,547 residents for a rate of 0.6%.

All those people aren’t heading for the countryside; many are moving to other metropolitan areas, according to the census estimates. Among counties with less than 10,000 residents, 61% lost population, whereas in counties with 100,000 residents or more, 68% gained in population.

That growth extends to the three biggest counties in the country after Cook County: Harris County (Houston), Maricopa (Phoenix) and San Diego.

Harris County, the biggest of the three, gained residents at a rate of about 0.95%, but it’s still an estimated 328,000 residents shy of Cook County.