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Mexico, Illinois

In 1980, 69 percent of Illinois residents were born in Illinois.

The next highest place of birth among Illinois residents was Missouri, accounting for 2.4 percent (279,025 people) of our state's population.

By 1990, Missouri fell out of the top spot as the largest provider of Illinois residents born elsewhere. It was replaced by Mexico.

See a map showing Chicago's Mexican American population
It was still close - Mexico accounted for 2.5 percent (280,170 people) of the state's population, compared to Missouri's 2 percent (229,965) - but Mexico was pulling away.

By 2000, the gap doubled, with Mexico accounting for 5 percent (622,932 people) compared to Missouri's 1.8 percent (218,079).

By 2004, the 5.4 percent of the state's population (665,196 people) provided by Mexico was more than those supplied by the top three states (Missouri, Indiana, and Mississippi) combined (5.2 percent; 648,480 people).

And these figures are believed to include only small proportion of undocumented residents, so the actual number of Mexican immigrants in Illinois is likely much higher. Such a high number of Mexican immigrants is not a big surprise to those of us who live in metropolitan areas where their presence seem to grow everyday. Mexicans not only work in area yards, restaurants, and grocery stores, but work as teachers, lawyers, reporters, nannies, and accountants.

It may surprise you to learn that there are just as many Mexicans in Illinois who were born in America as born in Mexico. In fact, in 2000, 46 percent of all Mexicans in Illinois (531,620 people), were born in the United States.

As you may expect, Chicago experienced the highest influx of Mexicans than anywhere in the state, seeing a 53.4 percent increase (186,005 people) between 1990 and 2000 - growth that certainly isn't confined to traditional Mexican neighborhoods like Pilsen and Little Village.

The suburbs are also seeing spectacular Mexican growth. Cicero's Mexican population increased 176.4 percent between 1990 and 2000 (from 21, 423 people to 59,205); Naperville went from having only 786 Mexicans in 1990 to 2,440 in 2000 (a 210.4 percent growth rate); Waukegan went from 11,524 to 30,441 (164.2 percent); Elgin from 11,550 to 27,787 (140.6 percent), and Aurora from 19,452 to 40,419 (107.8 percent).

Such massive increases in Mexican population across the region was an important one for the local economy, particularly for the City of Chicago, which would have lost population in the 1990s were it not for the substantial increase in immigrant population not only from Mexico but also from Poland, India, and the Philippines. The trend persists today. While the city is believed to have lost total population by 2.9 percent between 2000 (2,800,796) and 2004 (2,719,290), the Mexican population has increased by 6.1 percent during the same period (515,346 to 546,577).

Mexicans have been coming to and continue to come to this country to settle with or without the federal government's approval for a long time. Their presence is an inescapable fact - and an enriching one at that.

Kiljoong Kim is Research Director with the Egan Urban Center and a lecturer of sociology at DePaul University.


Posted on May 1, 2006

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