Monroe County is the only Illinois county in the area whose population has grown in recent years, according to data released by the United States Census Bureau.
The Census Bureau on Thursday published the results of its five-year American Community Survey for the years 2015-2019.
That survey is seen as a preview of the 2020 Census, the results of which are expected in early 2021, because it covers many of the same topics in comparable detail with recent information.
Per the ACS, Monroe County’s population from 2015-2019 grew by 795 people compared to 2010-2014. That approximately 2.3 percent increase puts the county’s population at an estimated 34,168 individuals.
Meanwhile, St. Clair County’s population dropped by roughly 2.3 percent, Madison County’s decreased by about 1.2 percent and Randolph County’s fell by around 1.3 percent.
Monroe County Board Chairman Vicki Koerber, who has served during the recent years of growth, credited the county’s “convenience, safety and schools” for bringing people here.
“You’re just a hop, skip and a jump from across the river with all the cultural events at your fingertips,” she said. “Also, a lot of families look for good schools. I believe that’s still a priority among parents. I also think just the fact that we are a good, safe community is important. We have our share of crime, but, if we have crime, we have good, capable law enforcement who get on it.”
“It’s definitely the Norman Rockwell American way of life,” Koerber summarized.
Census Bureau data shows Waterloo, Columbia, Hecker and Fults all contributed to the county’s population gain, while Valmeyer lost a few residents.
In the last five years, Monroe County has gotten slightly older. Its median age rose from 41.7 in 2010-2014 to 42 in 2015-2019.
The median is the value separating the higher half from the lower half of a data sample.
The largest increase in age brackets in the population was 1.7 percent in the 65-74 range. Those 3,232 individuals account for 9.5 percent of the county’s population.
The biggest drop was in the 45-54 age bracket, which fell from 16.8 percent of the county’s population to 14 percent. At 4,776 people, that is still the largest group.
The county also got slightly more racially diverse, as it is now 97.3 percent white instead of 98 percent white. That means 33,251 people in the county are Caucasian.
The largest minority group, according to the ACS, is Asians. The population of Asians here rose from .8 to 1.3, with a total of 444 Asian people.
The black population, meanwhile, dropped from .3 to .2 percent. There are 60 black people in Monroe County, the ACS found.
Monroe County also got a little wealthier.
The average household income increased from $93,380 in the first half of the 2010s to $105,341 in the last half of that decade. The median household income also went up from $74,941 to $85,747 over that time.
Approximately 20.7 percent of households, which is 2,819 households, in the county have an income between $100,000 and $149,999, making that the most common bracket.
The smallest bracket are those households that make less than $10,000. There are 289 of them, which accounts for 2.1 percent of the county’s households.
Similarly, the county’s unemployment rate dropped from 5.4 to 2.9 percent in the most recent years of the survey, and its population of people 16 and older in the labor force jumped by 617 people to 18,699.
Even with these population gains, it appears the congressional map in southern Illinois will change.
The 12th Congressional District, which Monroe County currently sits in, has seen its population overall drop to 693,580 in recent years. Likewise, the population of the neighboring 15th Congressional District shrunk to 681,765, per the ACS.
A 1964 Supreme Court ruling requires a state’s congressional districts to have roughly equal populations if that is feasible, and virtually every other district in Illinois has approximately 710,000 people in it.
That means the Democrat-controlled General Assembly may be forced to remove a seat when it re-draws district maps, possibly changing what areas current U.S. Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) represents or what district Monroe County resides in.