The belief that retirees and the wealthy are fleeing Illinois because of high taxes is not entirely supported by available data. A recent article in Chicago Magazine by Edward McClelland (Jan. 29, 2020) suggests that Illinois' exodus is much more complicated than simply a question of taxes.
In what is often called the reverse Great Migration, Chicago, along with other large cities, is losing its black middle class. "A comparison of 2010 Census data with the 2013-2017 American Community Survey shows that Illinois's white, Latino, and Asian populations all increased, while its black population declined from 1,866,414 to 1,833,501.
According to the same data, Illinois saw a decline in households earning less than $100,000 a year, while those earning more than $200,000 increased by 50 percent. The state's real per capita income is also on an upward trend, from $43,208 in 2010 to $53,727 in 2019."
Pete Saunders, in a January 2019 Chicago Reader article, points out that although nearly all major cities witnessed huge population losses following the '60s and '70s, Chicago lost four to ten times as many black residents as Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose.
A 2018 policy paper by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning noted an aging population, declining birth rates and stagnant immigration as some possible reasons. McClelland cites neighborhood disinvestment, rising property values, and lack of economic opportunity. The article refers to a September data analysis by the Tribune stating that Chicago alone is driving much of the state's population loss.
Of course, the Illinois Policy Institute blames Illinois' loss of residents on high taxes and pensions. David Hanson, in his usual simplistic view, just says, with no evidence, that the wealthy are moving to Florida. And concludes that if we vote for a graduated state income tax, we are stupid.
However, the beneficiaries of a graduated income tax may well be the lower-income residents, whose decision to stay may well help to stem the outgoing tide of Illinoisans and in the long run, increase revenue.