Is Southernmost Illinois Getting Smaller Over Time?

Sometimes people forget that Illinois is a vast state that expands over 57,913 square miles, and that Chicago isn’t all there is to explore there. That’s especially true since the lion’s share of Illinois residents live in the city. The farther south you travel, the fewer people you’re likely to find. That’s upsetting to some residents of Southernmost Illinois, because they feel their taxes aren’t going into projects that have any benefit or impact on their lives.

And certainly it gives people the mistaken idea that most of Illinois isn’t a great place to live.

According to criminal defense lawyer Jared Staucet — originally from Florida — Illinois is a great place to live based on a number of metrics: “It doesn’t matter where you come from, Illinois has something for everyone. The crime rates are relatively low, the outdoors provides enough adventure to last a lifetime, and its affordability is a big draw for people with low incomes. That’s especially true for those who prefer to live out in the country. I’m always trying to get my friends to move here.”

But still, many communities in the south feel like their voices have been unheard for a long time.

This is especially true for towns where the economy is faltering, like Murphysboro. When one region of a state is struggling while the rest prosper and grow, it can create a vicious cycle of decline. People will decide they don’t want to live there anymore, and then move away to a place where the pastures are greener. Those who remain are more likely to be elderly. In that way, the median income declines substantially over time, and the towns become poorer.

Cities are still growing, and many residents of rural communities experiencing population loss blame that trend for their struggles. 

The good news is this: new technologies like driverless cars and electric vehicles are expected to boom over the next decade. When the explosion happens, people will be more likely to spread out again. If you can take a nap or read a book during your morning commute, more people are likely to travel bigger distances.

That means people who live in cities now will look to less expensive regions in the future. Those who live in smaller country towns will be more likely to stay where they are while commuting to the city, where they may have found a higher paying job. In other words, driverless and electric vehicles will spread the wealth a bit more equally, a great reality for both the economy and democracy.

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