The U.S. Census Bureau released its latest population estimates for towns with 50,000 or more residents today — and they show that Evanston’s population continued a decline that’s been underway for several years.

The bureau says Evanston had 73,473 people last year, down from 74,585 when the annual estimate for 2010 was issued.

Evanston retained its position as the 15th largest city in Illinois that it had at the start of the decade. Among the 20 largest communities in the state, only six showed population gains across the decade.

Chicago shrank proportionately less than Evanston during the period, losing just 0.13% of its population, compared to a 1.5% drop for Evanston.

The biggest percentage gain among the top 20 was scored by another college town — Champaign, which grew 9.2%, from 81,405 to 88,909 residents.

Bloomington, also home to a major school, eeked out a slight gain — up just 0.6%, from 76,848 to 77,330.

Our neighbor to the west, Skokie, fared even worse than Evanston, losing 3.4% of its population with a decline from 64,889 to 62,700 residents.

The census data indicates that Evanston has been losing residents since 2014, when the number of people living here hit a peak for the decade of 75,994 and the city ranked as the 14th largest in the state.

Shedding the highest percentage of their populations since 2010 were Decatur, down 7% from 76,105 to 70,746 and Rockford, down 4.9% from 153,147 to 145,609.

For the Midwest region as a whole, the Census Bureau says the average city with a population of more than 50,000 has grown by 3.1% over the decade. That’s higher than the 1.5% growth rate in the Northeast, but lower than the 11.8% growth in the South and 9.1% growth in the West.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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