Officials decry census’ population loss estimates in Northwest suburbs

Recently released estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau showing significant population declines among several Northwest Cook County towns have municipal leaders scratching their heads.

The federal agency is estimating a drop of more than 4% of the residents in nearly a dozen towns located in the Cook County panhandle between 2020 and 2023.

“I don’t know how they’re looking at it,” said Palatine Village Manager Reid Ottesen. “It defies logic and defies the data we have.”

While the census bureau estimates Palatine has lost more than 3,000 residents since 2020 — a 4.5% drop — Ottesen said the town has seen an increase of 47 residential water customers in the past 12 months alone.

“It’s beyond understanding how the census bureau could think that,” Ottesen complained. “It’s very concerning because we don’t know how they’re calculating these figures, and if they continue using whatever algorithm, it could affect the amount of funding we receive through state per capita revenue sharing.”

The state shares portions of income, motor fuel and local use taxes with municipalities based on population. It uses official census figures from 2020 for per capita revenue distribution, unless a special census is approved and undertaken.

In addition to Palatine, census officials estimate Rosemont, Streamwood, Elk Grove Village, Mount Prospect, Prospect Heights, Park Ridge, Des Plaines, Arlington Heights and Inverness each lost more than 4% of their populations since 2020.

Suburbs with highest estimated population gains and losses
Five suburbs that potentially grew the most
Town20202023Growth% change
Volo 6,1607,01685613.8%
Warrenville 13,55915,0271,46810.8%
Pingree Grove 10,37311,1377647.3%
Kildeer 4,0844,3772937.2%
Elburn 6,1836,5593766.1%
Five suburbs that reportedly shrank the most
Rosemont 3,9533,766-187-4.7%
Streamwood 39,58237,780-1,802-4.6%
Elk Grove Village 32,82531,350-1,475-4.5%
Mount Prospect 56,85354,298-2,555-4.5%
Palatine 67,90364,869-3,034-4.5%
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

“Arlington Heights, like many communities, (has) questions about this estimate and potential under-representation of the population,” said Charles Witherington-Perkins, director of planning and community development in Arlington Heights. “Since 2020, several new developments have been completed and have new occupancies, and the village is not observing higher vacant units than normal when actual census counts are undertaken.”

An accurate headcount is so important that several Illinois towns are waiting in line for special census counts so they can maximize the revenue distributed by the state.

That includes Volo, which census bureau officials estimate has grown 13.8% since 2020.

  Estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau recently indicate Volo’s population increased by nearly 14% since 2020, the largest percentage growth in the suburbs. Paul Valade/, file

“We’re planning to conduct a special census next spring,” said Mike May, Volo’s village administrator. “We have to wait our turn because there are a number of towns already going through the process.”

Pingree Grove recently completed one and is awaiting the final results.

“I’ve been told we were the first municipality in the country to do it this decade,” said Andy Ferrini, Pingree Grove’s village manager. “From what I’ve heard it went fairly smooth.”

The special census counts can cost municipalities around $400,000, but they quickly pay for themselves, officials said.

“We estimate it will result in $244,000 in additional state revenue each year,” said Cristina White, Warrenville’s village administrator. “We just wrapped up the electronic self-reporting and the door-to-door (count) has been initiated, which will run through July.”

Warrenville already is estimated to have seen a 10.8% increase in its population since 2020, according to census estimates, but it’s unknown where those new residents are coming from and why some towns are growing faster while others appear to be shrinking.

“We do not comment on why, mainly because we don’t know why,” said Ileana Serrano, a census bureau data dissemination specialist.

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