Eye On Illinois: Lesson learned about overreacting to Census figures?

Did the words “post-enumeration survey estimation” mean anything to you before Wednesday?

If that phrase requires translation, here’s the gist, from an official U.S. Census Bureau report: The government counted wrong.

Census officials now think the 2020 report undercounted Illinois’ population, along with Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas, while overcounting Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Utah.

After originally reporting 12.54 million residents, with a standard error rate of 0.89% – compared with the national 0.25% average – the agency now says it undercounted Illinois by 1.97%. Rather than shrink by 18,000, Illinois grew by 250,000. That’s more than live in any city outside Chicago or more than the combined population of the state’s 27 smallest counties.

Having new information won’t change congressional or Electoral College representation, nor will it affect new political boundaries. What it should do – but probably won’t – is put at least a temporary halt to the talking point that people are fleeing the state in droves for whatever reason becomes politically useful.

People move from Illinois every year. Some do so explicitly because they don’t like the taxes or the governor or their real estate buying power or any number of reasons attributed directly or indirectly to actions of elected officials. But some people don’t like the burgers at your favorite restaurant, swear it’s the worst joint in town and vow to take their money elsewhere. That’s their right as a consumer, but such incidents only become a problem for the proprietor when they recur at significant scale.

To the extent state officials can drill down on the numbers to learn about regional trends, the information might be useful. But these factors are fluid, and using them to drive policy invites a constant cycle of implementation, analysis, reaction and likely correction that seems impractical given the speed at which government operates.

As with the original numbers, we should guard against overreacting to an undercount.

Decision 2022

I asked undecided Republican voters to share their thoughts heading into primary season. Brian M., of Cary, says: “For me, Richard Irvin, on the face of it, is an attractive choice. However, It would be interesting if Ken Griffin were to share, what must be strong reasons, for spending so much money supporting Irvin’s campaign (for example background, character, record, experience, core values, etc.). Perhaps he already has shared this information and I missed it. It is hard to judge from the advertising campaigns what is substance and what is not. Based upon information absorbed to date (including the Northwest Herald analyses), I am currently favoring ‘the devil I know’ Darren Bailey, whose opposition advertisements succinctly describe all the reasons why a conservative should vote for him.”

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at