Second largest county in the US lost residents last year in latest census survey

Despite an influx of international immigrants, Cook County bucked a broader post-pandemic trend and continued to lose population last year, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Thursday.

The Vintage 2023 estimates show Cook County remains the second largest county in the U.S. at nearly 5.1 million residents, but its population fell by more than 24,000 last year, the fourth largest decline among all counties. Los Angeles County, the nation’s largest, lost more than 56,000 residents, followed by Kings, Queens and Bronx counties in New York.

Chicago’s home county has lost more than 188,000 residents since the start of the pandemic in 2020, according to the census population estimates.

Led by continued domestic migration in the South, more counties saw population increases than losses across the U.S. in 2023, with Midwest counties tipping to positive growth for the first time since the pandemic hit in 2020, the survey showed.

“Areas which experienced high levels of domestic out-migration during the pandemic, such as in the Midwest and Northeast, are now seeing more counties with population growth,” Lauren Bowers, chief of the Census Bureau’s population estimates branch, said in a news release. “Meanwhile, county population growth is slowing down out west, such as in Arizona and Idaho.”

The number of counties with positive net domestic migration increased in all regions but the West. Cook County, however, continued to see its population disperse to other U.S. destinations. Last year, more than 58,000 Cook County residents relocated to other counties, second only to Los Angeles County in net domestic migration losses.

The outflow was nonetheless reduced for Cook County, which lost nearly 95,000 residents to net domestic migration in 2022.

The total population decline in Cook County was mitigated by the net international migration of 23,790 people last year, according to census data.

Eight of the 10 counties that had the largest population gains in 2023 were in Texas, led by Harris County, where Houston is the county seat, which added nearly 54,000 residents. Maricopa County, Arizona, home to Phoenix, fell from first to fourth with a gain of just over 30,000 residents last year.

The Vintage 2023 report, which surveys the population as of July 1, 2023, also includes estimates and trends for urban regions, where 73% of the nation’s 387 metropolitan areas showed annual growth last year.

Chicago was not one of them.

The Chicago metropolitan area, the nation’s third largest behind New York and Los Angeles, was down slightly last year with a population of 9,262,825, a decline of 16,600 residents or about .2%.

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the Chicago metropolitan area has lost more than 187,000 residents, according to census data.

While Cook County and the Chicago metropolitan area continue to lose ground, Illinois may have reversed its population decline. In January, the state announced that an undercount in the 2020 census missed 46,400 Illinois residents living in group homes, an adjustment to the population base that will be incorporated into future surveys.

That bolstered base may offset the nearly 33,000 people Illinois lost in the 2023 annual census update, which was published in December.