Chicago Population 2016

The latest estimate for the population of Chicago comes from the US Census Bureau. They confirmed that, in July 2011, there were 2,707,120 people living in the city of Chicago. The 2016 population has been estimated to be approximately 2,720,546, with slow growth and declines attributed to violence, tax increases and issues with schools.

This estimate is based on extrapolating the 2010 census data, which reported that the city was home to 2,695,598 people. The 2010 census showed a dramatic drop of almost 7% over the previous ten years, so if the Census Bureau's 2011 figures are correct, they would appear to show Chicago tentatively entering a new period of growth.

The 2016 estimated population of 2.7 million makes Chicago the third largest city in the United States, behind New York City (8.55 million) and Los Angeles (3.97 million). Chicago is by far the largest city in Illinois, with the next largest city, Aurora, being under 200,000 people.

History of Chicago Population

Just around 200 settlers founded the town of Chicago in 1833, and almost immediately this small town on the US frontier became a boom town. Seven years later, the census came to town for the first time, and recorded a healthy population of 4,000. Every ten years the census came and almost every time it recorded that the city's population had doubled or more. By the time the 1890 census rolled around, there were over a million people living in Chicago, America's second largest city.

Growth – fueled by wave after wave of immigration – continued right up until 1950, where Chicago reached its highest ever population of 3,620,962.

Ever since then, Chicago has, like so many of America's grand cities, been in decline. Almost every census since 1960 has recorded a drop in population – sometimes as much as 10% in a decade – as the city's population gradually moves outwards to the more hospitable surrounding suburbs.

Population of the Chicago Metropolitan Area

Today, Chicago the city makes up only just over a quarter of the wider Chicago-Joilet-Naperville Metropolitan Area's population. According to data from the 2010 census, the CJN Metro Area is home to an impressive 9,504,753 people. In 2016, this number is estimated to be around 9,554,598. Like the city of Chicago, the CJN Metro Area is also the third largest in the US, behind New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island (20.18 million) and the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana (13.34 million) metro areas.

The Chicago Metropolitan Area, as seen from space

As the population of Chicago itself has gradually fallen, the population of its wider metro area has grown, representing both natural growth in those areas and a gradual move of the city's workforce into its suburbs. Like Chicago itself, the northern suburbs are relatively more affluent than its southern suburbs.

Chicago Demographics

The racial composition of Chicago (based on the results of the 2010 census) is 45% White (31.7% non-Hispanic White), 32.9% Black, 5.5% Asian, 2.7% from two or more races, 0.5% American Indian. In addition, 13.4% are from another race. For comparison, the population of Illinois as a whole is 71.5% White and 14.5% black.

The city's white population is found primarily in the Northern part of the city, and its black population in the Southern part of the city (as can be seen from this map, in which red dots represent Whites, blue dots represent Blacks and orange dots represent Hispanics.) The geographical distribution of race in Chicago is largely a result of Chicago's historically racist housing allocation policy, which forced its black population into the cheaper Chicago South Side.

Looking back into historical data also shows some interesting trends – non-Hispanic whites made up 59% of the residents of Chicago in 1970, falling to just 31.7% in 2010 – which indicates that many of the people leaving the city over the past few decades for the suburbs have been from among its relatively more affluent white population.

Chicago Census 2010 - further reading

The best source for official data about Chicago from the 2010 census is, of course, the official census website. The Chicago quick facts page contains not only high-level data on Chicago's population, but also more detailed statistics on the average income in Chicago, the city's age distribution, its businesses, and other important facts.

You can also find some interesting data, including some useful Chicago population maps at the University of Chicago library website and a great news portal covering the 2010 census as it applied to the Windy City at the Chicago Tribune newspaper.

Finally, just as a word of caution to indicate that published statistics aren't always the final word, this article in the Chicago Tribune reports that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is challenging the results of the 2010 census. He believes that the census undercounted the city's population by around 200,000 people. Why is this so important to him? Because millions of dollars of federal subsidies, which are allocated based on relative population, are at stake.

Chicago Population in 2016 Source: J. Crocker

Chicago Population Data (Urban Area)

Year Population Growth Rate (%) Growth
1950 4,999,000 0.00% 0
1955 5,565,000 11.30% 566,000
1960 6,183,000 11.10% 618,000
1965 6,639,000 7.40% 456,000
1970 7,106,000 7.00% 467,000
1975 7,160,000 0.80% 54,000
1980 7,216,000 0.80% 56,000
1985 7,285,000 1.00% 69,000
1990 7,374,000 1.20% 89,000
1995 7,839,000 6.30% 465,000
2000 8,315,000 6.10% 476,000
2005 8,464,000 1.80% 149,000
2010 8,616,000 1.80% 152,000
2015 8,745,000 1.50% 129,000
2016 8,755,000 0.10% 10,000
2020 8,871,000 1.30% 116,000
2025 9,166,000 3.30% 295,000
2030 9,493,000 3.60% 327,000
Chicago Population Growth

Chicago's 2016 population is now estimated at 8,755,000. In 1950, the population of Chicago was 4,999,000. Chicago has grown by 10,000 in the last year, which represents a 0.10% change. These population estimates and projections come from the latest revision of the UN World Urbanization Prospects. These estimates represent the Urban agglomeration of Chicago, which typically includes Chicago's population in addition to adjacent suburban areas.