America’s Most Troubled State? Residents Flee as Unemployment, Debt, and High Taxes

By: Georgia | Published: May 04, 2024

High unemployment, spiraling pension debt, and rising taxes are driving a massive exodus in Illinois. 

Bryce Hill from the Illinois Policy Institute sheds light on the grim economic landscape: “Unemployment rates are very high; wage growth is lagging compared to most other states.”

Job Market Stagnation

Illinois is caught in a challenging situation with its job market at a standstill

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The lack of new employment opportunities is pushing residents to search for prosperity in more economically vibrant areas, dramatically changing the state’s demographic structure.


Rising Pension Debt

Illinois is sinking deeper into financial distress, burdened by a public pension debt that now reaches nearly $150 billion.

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A $2.6 billion increase in the last year alone has intensified the financial crisis, hindering the state’s path to economic recovery.

Declining Population

Census Bureau reports indicate a concerning drop in Illinois’ population, with a decrease of about 32,826 people over the last year, continuing a decade-long downward trend. 

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This population shrinkage is taking a toll on the state’s economy, slicing into tax revenues and diminishing economic strength.

In Company with Struggling States

Like New York and California, Illinois faces similar economic strains—high taxes and fiscal challenges—that are also causing people to leave.

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These states, known for their robust economies, are now seeing significant population declines due to these persistent issues.

Fiscal Forecast

Illinois is staring down a grim financial future with a forecasted budget deficit of $891 million for the upcoming fiscal year.

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The decline in population and subsequent tax revenue losses play significant roles in this troubling financial scenario.


Governor Pritzker Responds to Criticism

Amid mounting challenges, Governor J.B. Pritzker insists his policies have bolstered Illinois’s economy to surpass $1 trillion.

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Nevertheless, the state continues to struggle with an unemployment rate of 4.8 percent, among the nation’s highest.


Economic Impact of Departures

The continuous departure of Illinois residents is creating severe economic consequences.

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Hill explains the broader implications: “Migrants take over $10 billion worth of income with them out of state when we lose people due to domestic migration, so it certainly has an impact on not only the state’s pocketbooks but local tax revenues as well.”


Pension Crisis Worsens

The ongoing crisis of unfunded pension liabilities remains a severe drain on Illinois.

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It consumes considerable resources from both state and local budgets and limits funds available for other critical services.


A Trend Beyond State Lines

Following Illinois’ footsteps, both New York and California are seeing a migration to states like Florida and Texas, where lower taxes and better job opportunities are drawing people away.

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This pattern is a clear sign of a broader economic shift influencing the entire country.


Why Americans Relocate

Americans are choosing to relocate for better job opportunities, more affordable living conditions, and beneficial tax environments.

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These shifts are profoundly influencing where and how people choose to live, impacting state economies and demographics nationwide.


The Future of American Demographics and Economy

The evolving migration trends are likely to cause significant changes in the demographic and economic frameworks of the states.

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Illinois must address its financial and economic issues effectively to retain and attract residents, which will be critical for its future growth and prosperity.