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Many who are well-educated and highly paid are moving out of Cook County

Feb 27, 2014

Large numbers of residents are leaving Cook County, many of them well-educated and highly paid, according to a recent report by the United States Census Bureau.

Overall, more than 208,000 people left Cook County between 2007 and 2011, while 136,000 moved in, the report says, leaving a net loss of 72,000.

Although Cook County has been losing population to surrounding counties for decades, the county-to-county report released this month provides new estimates, tracking not only where people are moving to but their demographic characteristics as well.

Cook is among the counties with the 10 largest out-migration populations, and among the top 25 leaving who have at least a bachelor’s degree and a household income of $75,000 or more.

At least 10,000 of the 72,000 net loss were well-educated and well-paid. Most residents in this demographic moved to surrounding counties like DuPage. However Los Angeles, Denver and Austin, Texas, were among the largest hubs attracting Chicago-area talent as well.

Although the estimates by education level do not include people under the age of 25, William K. Koerber, a survey statistician in the migration branch at the U.S. Census Bureau, said the in-and-out migration of this younger population is likely pretty even in Chicago because of the city’s various universities.

The survey does not differentiate between Chicago and the Cook County suburbs.

Demographers say a lot of the population shift can be explained by the aging of the Cook County population. Although the city attracts young professionals, the 30-40 age group tends move to surrounding counties in search of better school districts and housing.

Some housing experts agree and say this trend is also likely exacerbated by the high cost of living in Chicago.

“Older people are downsizing and going to communities where their needs are being met,” said Patricia Woodfolk, a broker at a Century 21 affiliate in the Hyde Park area.

“Many of my clients are also moving because they want to find better school districts for their kids in places where housing is cheaper and neighborhoods are safer,” she said.

The move-out trend may continue, she said.

“Even though I do see the housing market picking up, lots of people are waiting to sell when they can get more for their homes and then get more for their money elsewhere,” she said.


Data from the County-to-County Migration Flow (2007-20011) national report