Jul 29, 2023 - Real Estate

Young professionals still love Chicago, even as more people leave the state

Data: Zillow; Note: Origins include the entire metro area; Chart: Axios Visuals

Illinois is among the fastest-shrinking states in terms of population, but the Windy City remains an attractive home to job seekers.

Why it matters: Young professionals are still moving to Chicago, even as affordability draws Illinoisans to low-tax states like Florida and Texas.

What they're saying: Young professionals, particularly those from the Midwest, are drawn to Chicago's many industries and its vibrant food and entertainment scenes, according to broker associate Bucky Cross, who helps clients relocate.

  • "Chicago will always have an influx of talent," he says.

Zoom in: Almost 80% of pageviews for Chicago-area Zillow listings came from locals, per first-quarter Zillow data shared with Axios.

  • Outside the metro, Milwaukee was the top origin, followed by New York, Denver, Minneapolis and Detroit.

The big picture: The exodus from major metros like Chicago comes as people seek lower living costs, or to pocket more income. Illinois has one of the highest tax burdens nationwide, NPR reports.

  • "Folks are looking for a leg up wherever they can get it," says Cross.
  • He's seen an uptick in people moving to states with no income tax.

Driving the news: Illinois lost 1.6% of its population between 2020-2022, per U.S. Census Bureau data.

  • A new Redfin report shows Chicago was the most common origin of people moving to hot spots Sarasota and Cape Coral, Florida.

Reality check: Elevated mortgage rates are keeping many people in place. "We're seeing a big pullback in migration right now," Redfin deputy chief economist Taylor Marr tells Axios.

  • Across the U.S., the number of Redfin users searching for homes within their metro is down 18% from a year ago, per the June report.
  • Meanwhile, the number of users surfing listings in a new area dropped by 7%.

Chicago's pack of young transplants includes reader Sydney S., a remote worker who arrived last May from Washington, D.C.

  • She was drawn to the city's relatively affordable housing — she lives alone in a Gold Coast apartment — and outdoor recreation space.

Between the lines: "I knew I wanted to be in a big, walkable city, and I’m not ready, nor have the income, to live comfortably in New York, so Chicago was really the clear choice," she tells Axios.

Pro tip: Chicagoans are especially welcoming to newcomers, some readers told us.

  • Ben S., who moved to Edgewater from upstate New York for a job at U.I.C., suggests asking around about where to find activities you like, "and it probably won't be long before you are connected with a group."

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