Millennials are refreshingly optimistic about their futures – but unfortunately
for Illinois, few young people are building those futures in the Land of
According to Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, data, in 2014, Illinois lost
50,000 more taxpayers – and their dependents – than it gained through migration.
Millennials led the exodus. While more than 70,700 taxpayers under the age of 34
moved into Illinois, more than 89,600 moved out. This amounts to a net loss of
almost 19,000 millennials in 2014, and more than one-third of the state’s 50,000
net loss to migration across all age groups.
Not only are young taxpayers leaving Illinois, but students are leaving in
droves, too. Department of Education, or DOE, data compiled by The New York
Times confirm that in 2014, only about 2,100 students came to Illinois from out
of state to attend a public university, while more than 16,400 students left
Illinois for public universities in other states. This amounts to a net loss of
more than 14,300 students to other states. Illinois sends the most college
students to neighboring Midwestern states, including Missouri, Iowa, Indiana,
Wisconsin and Michigan.
Out of all 50 states, only California had more students leave than Illinois, at
more than 17,100. But Illinois had a greater net loss. California also gained
more than 4,600 students for a net loss of more than 12,500, while Illinois’ net
loss was more than 14,300.
The combined net loss of millennial taxpayers and students to other states in
2014 amounts to more than 33,000 young Illinoisans. And that’s just for one
To be sure, this number is not exact. For example, young people entering the
workforce straight out of high school who have never paid taxes could move
states, and this migration would not be accounted for in the IRS data due to
lack of prior tax data. Further, some fleeing millennial students are likely
also taxpayers, so they may be counted in both DOE and IRS data, inflating the
actual number. The DOE data also only measured public universities, so it does
not account for student migration for private universities.
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Nevertheless, the trend is clear: Young people are leaving
Illinois, and policymakers need to ask themselves why the state is
so unattractive to these young people.
The IRS and DOE data are consistent with a recent Paul Simon Public
Policy Institute poll, which found that 57 percent of Millennials in
Illinois want to leave the state, compared with 47 percent of the
general state population.
Illinois needs millennials. According to a Forbes survey, a majority
of U.S. entrepreneurs under the age of 30 still believe in the
American Dream. In addition, the millennial generation is now front
and center in American enterprise. In 2015, it surpassed Generation
X to become the largest share of the American workforce. Combined,
these factors make the millennial generation particularly fit to
fuel current job creation and to cover the state’s tax bill over the
long term. Fewer millennials means fewer working-age adults – or
fewer taxpayers – to cover the state’s soaring pension burden, which
will be a growing problem as more of Illinois’ population reaches
If young people are our future, Illinois is in trouble. State
policymakers need to correct the policies that could be contributing
to this mass millennial departure. Illinois’ anti-jobs policies,
crushing tax burden and looming pension crisis make the state
uncompetitive and unattractive. Illinois policymakers should heed
the grave consequences of a shrinking youth population, and enact
job-creating reforms so millennials can not only afford to, but also
be proud to build futures in Illinois.
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