In the consternation over Caterpillar moving from Illinois to Texas, a reminder that the company moved from Peoria to a Chicago suburb in 2017

Caterpillar Inc. recently announced plans to move from Deerfield, Illinois to Texas. This prompted concerns about another big company (following the announced exit of Boeing’s headquarters) leaving the Chicago area and Illinois.

Photo by The Vien on Pexels.com

While this fits one narrative of Chicago, the region, and Illinois losing residents and companies to places with growing populations and more conservative business climates, this is not the only move Caterpillar has made in recent years. The company started in 1910 in Peoria and stayed there for a long time before relocating to Deerfield in 2017. Here is how the Chicago Tribune described that move:

Caterpillar will take over the former headquarters of premium spirits maker Beam Suntory, which announced plans last year to move its 450 employees and global headquarters to Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, joining corporations including McDonald’s, Motorola Solutions, Kraft Heinz, Wilson Sporting Goods and Conagra Brands that have recently moved or made plans to relocate downtown. Beam Suntory’s move will be completed by the end of June.”

“Following a thorough site selection process, we chose this location because it is approximately a 20-minute drive to O’Hare airport and convenient to the city of Chicago via commuter train, achieving our goal to be more accessible to our global customers, dealers and employees,” Caterpillar CEO Jim Umpleby said in a news release Wednesday. “This site gives our employees many options to live in either an urban or suburban environment. We know we have to compete for the best talent to grow our company, and this location will appeal to our diverse, global team, today and in the future.”…

In 2011, Caterpillar’s then-CEO Doug Oberhelman talked of moving jobs out of Illinois because of the state’s tax and spending policies. But in 2015, the company said it would stay in Peoria and build a new corporate headquarters, reassuring employees worried about a move. That changed again in January, when the company said it was abandoning plans for the new downstate headquarters.

So is this a story about Chicagoland and Illinois losing important companies or a broader example of companies responding to global markets and leaving behind long roots? Caterpillar is a company started and based in a smaller Rust Belt city for decades and now will move to two of the biggest metropolitan areas in less than a decade. How long will it be in Irving, Texas before again seeking greener pastures and business advantages?

Primary suburban voter turnout in Illinois under 20%

Experts suggest the turnout for Illinois’ primary earlier this week will be under 20% in the Chicago suburbs:

Photo by Tara Winstead on Pexels.com

When the votes are certified by the Illinois State Board of Elections late next month, officials believe fewer than 20% of the state’s registered voters will have cast ballots…

In the suburbs, only DuPage County reported more than 20% voter turnout, according to unofficial results on the county clerk’s website.

Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough is still reporting one uncounted precinct late Wednesday, but just 19.1% of suburban Cook County voters cast ballots, according to her website.

Unofficial results show voter turnout in McHenry County at 19.4%, 18.2% in Kane County and 18.7% in Will County.

The suburbs are where the political action in the United States is today, yet Chicago suburbanites did not vote in large numbers for the primaries ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Given the congressional redistricting in Illinois and an impending gubernatorial race, where the stakes not high enough for suburban voters?

The article goes on to discuss reasons why voters may not have felt very motivated to vote in this primary. How many of these reasons – summer voting, lack of interesting races, limited midterm turnout – explicitly affect suburbanites? Summer vacations are a marker of middle-class and above suburban lives but how many of them overlap with the late June 28 voting day? Do suburbanites need more contested races than other voters? Do suburbanites not feel the pressure of midterms or only pay attention in the presidential cycles when there is more at stake amid their busy day-to-day suburban life?

Those candidates and actors that can inspire suburbanites to get to the polls and vote may just get the winning edge.

Illinois lost population in the 2020 Census and then it gained population after estimates of an undercount

The Census Bureau reported last week on states where populations were likely undercounted or overcounted. Illinois fell into the first camp:

Photo by Skylar Kang on Pexels.com

The U.S. Census Bureau originally found that Illinois lost about 18,000 people over the prior decade, which was the first time numbers showed Illinois’ overall population had declined since it joined the union in 1818. But after a follow-up survey — something that happens after each once-a-decade head count of the U.S. population — it discovered the state’s population figures had likely been undercounted…

“These latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show that Illinois is now a state on the rise with a growing population,” Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement. “ … I look forward to celebrating this development with all Illinoisans, including those who routinely bad-mouth our state.”…

The estimate that Illinois’ population was undercounted by 1.97%, or about 250,000, was the midpoint provided in the survey. The population could have been undercounted by as much as 440,000 people, or 3.43%, or as little as 65,000 people, or 0.51%, the survey showed.

I am interested in methodology and how small numbers can affect something seemingly simple like the number of people living in a state.

The Census Bureau puts much effort into getting the count right. This requires years of efforts leading up to the dicennial census, a lot of work in that year, and many resources put into all of it.

Losing 18,000 people over a ten year stretch is a small blip in a state that has over 12,000,000 residents. Similarly, gaining 250,000 people – the midpoint of the undercount estimate – is just a few percent of the total population. Either way, the Illinois population did not change all that much. It stayed relatively the same.

The real issue for Illinois and its leaders are the perceptions about population in Illinois and how Illinois compares to other states. Many agree: populations of state and communities should be growing for them to be deemed healthy. Population growth is good. In contrast, losing people is a sign of distress.

Similarly, even if Illinois grew by 250,000 people or lost 18,000 people, it matters how this compares to other places. Is Illinois more like Rust Belt communities and states or is it more like Sunbelt communities and states? Can Illinois be a shining light for population growth in the Upper Midwest? An so on.

It does not appear the overcount/undercount estimates will become official population figures so this story will likely continue in Illinois with subsequent Census estimates and political claims about population.

Preserve a Brutalist courthouse in the suburbs, can McMansions be far behind?

Landmark Illinois recently released its list of the most endangered historic places and it includes several places in the suburbs of Chicago. This is the largest suburban building on the list:

This is indeed a unique structure. Suburbanites are unlikely to see many large Brutalist buildings in suburban communities as they are traditionally associated with big cities (think Boston City Hall or the FBI Building in Washington, D.C.).

I have asked before whether Americans would prefer modernist structures more broadly or McMansions. Both kinds of buildings have their detractors who critique the materials, the style, and the prevalence of such structures.

If some of the goals of preservation are to protect notable buildings and help show important architecture of the past, both such styles deserve to be recognized. Brutalism is not likely the preferred style in suburbs. McMansions are not favored by many. At the least, both kinds of buildings represent a particular era. At their best, they present a particular approach to buildings and spaces.

Even if certain kinds of structures or certain styles are not appealing to all, there is still value in preserving examples of this work. If Brutalist buildings are in, we can expect to see preserved McMansions in the future. Imagine protecting the subdivision McMansion of the North Shore or the teardown McMansion of Naperville to show how Americans thought about suburban housing at the turn of the twenty-first century.

An Illinois gubernatorial candidate with experience as mayor of a suburb that is also the state’s second largest city

Without getting into the particular politics of Richard Irvin’s campaign for Illinois governor, it is worth noting the position from which he approaches his run: as mayor of Aurora, Illinois, the largest suburb in the Chicago region and the second largest city in Illinois. Some notes about Aurora and what leading that city might mean for leading Illinois:

-Aurora has unique history. With its location roughly 40 miles outside downtown Chicago, it has an industrial background with its location on the Fox River and its railroad connections. For Naperville residents at the turn of the 20th century, a trip to Aurora along the rail line was a big deal.

-The city experienced a renaissance in recent decades plus high population growth between 1980 and 2010 – going from over 81,000 residents to over 197,000 residents – before a slight downturn in the 2010s to a population of just over 180,000.

-That population growth means Aurora is now solidly the second largest city in Illinois.

-It is a racially diverse suburb with 2021 Census estimates putting the population at 42.7% Latino, 34.9% White alone, 10.5% Black, and 9.3% Asian.

-A relatively recent rebranding campaign took the city’s longtime motto of “The City of Lights” and updated it.

In advertisements, Irvin has highlighted his experience as a mayor of a decent sized city. A governor’s race between a politician identified with Chicago and another identified with the biggest suburb and second biggest city could present some interesting contrasts.

Reasons for suburban legislators leading the Illinois Democrats

As American political divides currently sit in the suburbs, the tension between Chicago Democrats and suburban Democrats in Illinois is interesting to consider:

Photo by Kelly Lacy on Pexels.com

In adding suburbia to the Democratic base, it turned out, Madigan also created a party that would no longer tolerate his Chicago ward boss style of leadership.

“Suburbanites tend to be less enamored of machine politics,” said Christopher Z. Mooney, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois-Chicago. “Machine politics is about one thing: getting jobs. Suburban voters tend to be more concerned about corruption. They’re a little better off,” and thus don’t need the government jobs political bosses can dole out…

While many suburban representatives had benefited from Madigan’s operation, the ComEd scandal marked the moment that “a limit had been reached,” Mooney said. “They felt that his usefulness was over. The fact that they were from the suburbs allowed them to have some cover. Madigan’s political tentacles are more effective in the city of Chicago or Cook County.”…

Suburbanites haven’t just changed the way politics is conducted within the Democratic Party, they’ve also made certain issues more important to the party. Abortion, for instance. In the 1980s, the Catholic Madigan declared himself “100% pro-life.” In 2019, he supported the Reproductive Health Act, which ensured that abortion will be legal in Illinois if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and declares that a “fetus does not have independent rights under the laws of this state.”

The explanations here suggest the changes in suburbs have had significant consequences for politics. As noted above, corruption turns off suburban voters – who often like the idea of more virtuous smaller local government – and there are more pro-choice suburban voters.

I could imagine several other factors involving suburbia that have influenced this change:

  1. The increasing suburban population compared to the population of Chicago. As a proportion of Illinois residents, there are more suburbanites than in the past. This does not necessarily guarantee changes toward what suburbanites want but it could be a factor.
  2. The suburbs have changed in demographic composition. There are now different kinds of suburban residents, including more racial and ethnic minorities and more lower-income residents. The whiter and wealthier suburbs still exist in places but so does more complex suburbia. The suburban voters today are not just more educated whites.
  3. While the comparison above is between Chicago style politics and suburban politics, I wonder how suburbanites view the big city more broadly as compared to the past. Are more suburbanites interested in life in denser communities with more cultural opportunities (even if they are in the suburbs)? How essential is Chicago to the region and state compared to all of the activity – business, cultural, civically – in the suburbs?

Chicago starts new round of advertising battle with Texas

Chicago and Illinois have been part of advertising campaigns from other states – Texas, Florida, and Wisconsin – in recent years. Several weeks ago, a Chicago group countered with a full page ad in the Dallas Morning News:

World Business Chicago, the city’s public-private economic development arm, purchased the print ad, which opens with “Dear Texas” before jumping into reasons companies should consider moving north. It cites the Midwest city’s startup ecosystem, attraction of tech and engineering graduates and a top-ranked logistics and transportation sector as strengths.

Then it hones in on what it perceives as Texas’ new weakness.

“In Chicago, we believe in every person’s right to vote, protecting reproductive rights and science to fight COVID-19,″ the ad states.

“We believe that the values of the city you are doing business in matters more than ever before,” World Business Chicago CEO Michael Fassnacht told Bloomberg News Friday.

So goes on the ongoing battle between different cities and states in the United States with sizable differences. Certain locations stand out as outliers for the two sides; places like California, New York City, and Chicago for liberals and Texas, Florida, and other Southern locations for conservatives. Certain places do have sizable differences in culture and character but are they as easy to reduce to stereotype as their opponents often do? Many Americans live in more in between spaces – such as suburbs – compared to the ideal type locations often discussed.

The real question in all of this is whether such marketing campaigns work. Would a business or resident in Texas or Dallas see this ad and then make a move to Chicago? What factors prompt people and organizations to move? Multiple features of Chicago mentioned in the article could matter: human capital, a central location, a particular culture, certain regulations. Texas’ new abortion restrictions seem to have fired up many and some companies have announced plans to help their employees in Texas. At the same time, moving is not an easy task. Texas, like most places, has its own appealing factors.

Ultimately, is such marketing more about dunking on the opponent? I would be interested in checking back in with World Business Chicago to see how the advertising worked out.

Illinois lost residents 2010 to 2020; discrepancies in year to year estimates and decennial count

Illinois lost residents over the last decade. But, different Census estimates at different times created slightly different stories:

Photo by Nachelle Nocom on Pexels.com

Those estimates showed Illinois experiencing a net loss of 9,972 residents between 2013 and 2014; 22,194 residents between 2014 and 2015; 37,508 residents between 2015 and 2016; about 33,700 residents between 2016 and 2017; 45,116 between 2017 and 2018; 51,250 between 2018 and 2019; and 79,487 between 2019 and 2020…

On April 26, the U.S. Census Bureau released its state-by-state population numbers based on last year’s census. These are the numbers that determine congressional apportionment. Those numbers, released every 10 years, show a different picture for Illinois: a loss of about 18,000 residents since 2010.

What’s the deal? For starters, the two counting methods for estimated annual population and the 10-year census for apportionment are separate. Apples and oranges. Resident population numbers and apportionment population numbers are arrived at differently, with one set counting Illinois families who live overseas, including in the military, and one not.

Additionally, the every-10-years number is gathered not from those county-by-county metrics but from the census forms we fill out and from door-to-door contacts made by census workers on the ground.

The overall story is the same but this is a good reminder of how different methods can produce different results. Here are several key factors to keep in mind:

  1. The time period is different. One estimate comes every year, one comes every ten years. The yearly estimates are helpful because people like data. That does not necessarily mean the yearly estimates can be trusted as much as the other ones.
  2. The method in each version – yearly versus every ten years – is different. The decennial data involves more responses and requires more effort.
  3. The confidence in the two different kinds of estimates is different because of #2. The ten year estimates are more valid because they collect more data.

Theoretically, the year-to-year estimates could lead to a different story compared to the decennial estimates. Imagine year-to-year data that told of a slight increase in population while the ten-year numbers provided a slight decrease in population. This does not mean the process went wrong there or in the narrative where the yearly and ten-year estimates agreed. With estimates, researchers are trying their best to measure the full population patterns. But, there is some room for error.

That said, now that Illinois is known as one of the three states that lost population over the last decade, it will be interesting to see how politicians and business leaders respond. I can predict some of the responses already as different groups have practiced their talking points for years. Yet, the same old rhetoric may not be enough as these figures paint Illinois in a bad light when population growth is good in the United States.

Abolish townships or worry about turning them blue (or keeping them red)?

Illinois has many taxing bodies and government units. Illinois moved to stop creating new government bodies and DuPage County resolved several years ago to work to reduce the number of government bodies. Townships are a common target; they exist above municipal governments and below counties so are they necessary?

I thought of this recently with the lead-up to the upcoming local elections. On one side, I have seen signs urging voters to “Turn Milton Blue.”

This might be a strategy to boost local turnout and connect to broader political patterns. But, I do not know what these candidates want to do at the township level. What significant changes are needed?

On the other hand, I have seen campaign material for Republican candidates for Milton Township. This material listed all the things that the township does, presumably because of the Republicans there. For a party that at least talks sometimes about limited government, should they argue townships are unnecessary rather than fighting for political seats?

More broadly, how much do these township races benefit the people and communities of Illinois? In a time of budget deficits before COVID-19 plus further issues because of COVID-19, is it more important that one party or another holds the majority of seats in townships?

Co-presenting at the Wheaton Public Library on Race in Illinois: From Southern Counties to Northern Suburbs

With DePaul professor Dr. Caroline Kisiel, I will be presenting via Zoom tomorrow night at the Wheaton Public Library:

Wheaton Public Library on Instagram

Register ahead of time for the Zoom webinar here.

My presentation will largely draw on the 2019 article I co-authored with David Malone titled “Race, Town, and Gown: A White Christian College and a White Suburb Address Race.