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August 5, 2018

Fourteen municipalities closest to O’Hare are losing population. The cities, towns, and villages bordering or in direct proximity to Chicago O’Hare airport have had an annual NET population decrease beginning in 2014 according to official federal census estimates.

For each year between the official decennial census, municipalities coordinate with the United States Census Bureau in updating population estimates through various indirect methods. Municipalities report to their counties various statistics regarding housing construction. Municipalities also keep track of population via annual school enrollment data and tax records. The Census Bureau uses various data such as county birth and death records to provide ‘best guess’ annual estimates of municipal populations. The US Census Bureau also conducts an annual American Community Survey and produces one- and five-year estimates. (The five-year estimate is a rolling aggregation of the last five years of data, and thus is viewed as more accurate than the one-year survey results.) Annual municipal population estimates are published by the US Census Bureau on July 1st of each year. Apologies in advance for the data overload. Below are the numbers provided by the US Census Bureau at

A few notes regarding the significance of the above estimates and calculations:

  • All 14 municipalities have lost population since 2014. This loss has occurred immediately after the activation of the 10C/28C runway (aligned with Wilson Avenue in Chicago) and full operation of runway 9L/27R (aligned with Pratt Avenue in Chicago) in late 2013; in addition to the opening of the 10R/28L runway in late 2015 (aligned with Berteau Avenue in Chicago) and closing of the two diagonal runways 14L/32R and 14R/32L. Further impact is yet to be determined from two more flight paths that will be added/expanded by the end of 2021: northern runway parallels (1) Thorndale 9R/27L and (2) Granville/Devon 9C/27C.

  • The rate of net population loss actually accelerated for all 14 municipalities from 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 (e.g. -.07%, -.37%, -.50%, -.64%).

  • Approximately 5588 residents have left the 14 municipalities. Skokie had the highest net loss at 1,322 residents during from 2014 through 2017.

  • The City of Chicago neighborhood population estimates are not yet known but net population loss is certain to mirror suburban estimates.

Further analysis is needed to determine if municipal population loss is causal or correlation in nature (and by how much), relative to residents impacted by noise, air pollution, and housing infrastructure damage. In other words, are residents moving out of these communities solely due to the adverse effects of the O’Hare flight paths or are other variables involved (e.g. poor schools, unsafe neighborhoods, high cost of living, high taxes, poor political leadership, etc.).

So, who cares if residents move out and depopulate their community? If there is a slow erosion of population in a municipality, does it really harm the well-being of the community? In a subsequent post, we will outline the catastrophic economic impact of net population loss on municipalities. Stay tuned!


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