By Nancy Mathieson -
Although I live near Chicago, I was in Phoenix last week when the Census Bureau reported Cook County IL had the largest population loss and Maricopa County, Arizona (Phoenix metro) had the largest gain of all counties between July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2016. During that period, Cook County lost a net of 21,324 people to reach population of 5,203,499, while Maricopa County climbed by a net of 81,360 to 4,242,997 residents.
While Phoenix is happy to welcome new residents, experts are encouraged to see slower growth compared to the extreme population surges right before the 2008 housing crash. During the census period, Maricopa County gained most of its new residents from people relocating from other parts of the U.S. Denny Barney, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors believes attracting companies to Phoenix in high-paying sectors like technology, bioscience, health care and aerospace is key to the area’s growth. "The focus is to create the right type of skilled work force and to allow the growth to be more sustainable over time," Barney said. County government has encouraged companies to expand and relocate by cutting regulations.
Back in Chicago, people leaving Cook County aren’t moving to other parts of Illinois when net movements are considered. In addition, Cook County’s domestic migration losses have doubled over the last five years (while international gains remained flat). Most of Illinois at large is losing population: 93 of the state’s 102 counties are experiencing net out-migration. Weak job creation and an ever-increasing tax burden are cited as causes. A Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll released in October 2016 reported taxes were the major reason people want to leave Illinois.
In contrast to Illinois, Arizona state government is small. Arizona has the second-lowest number of state and local government employees per 100 residents in the U.S., according to a 2014 study by the Beacon Hill Institute. Property taxes are the sixth-lowest in the country (although sales taxes are high, around 10%), and unemployment insurance tax is the fourth-lowest. Arizona ranked 14th lowest nationwide for workers’ compensation costs by the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2015.
When the Census Bureau results were published last week, Gov. Doug Ducey tweeted “In game of states people vote w/their feet. They are choosing #Arizona BEST leading indicator of quality of life!” It would be interesting to learn how much of Cook County’s out-migration has ended up in Phoenix (as thousands of Chicago natives can be seen at Mesa’s Sloan Park watching Cubs pre-season baseball). No comment yet by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on these Cook County census numbers.
*Nancy Mathieson has a 30-year career in business, securities regulation and public policy. Nancy held positions at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), where she was a Director of Market Surveillance and managed a professional staff in the investigation of securities trading violations. She also served as Operations Director at Truth in Accounting, a Chicago think-tank whose mission is to promote transparency in government financial reporting. She was a Contributing Editor for Wirepoints Illinois News, and is currently Communications Director for Vernon Township G.O.P. in Lincolnshire, IL. Nancy received her B.S. in Economics from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her M.B.A. from New York University.