Я читала все эти вопли со смешанными чувствами: конечно, цифры есть цифры, и против них не попрешь, но с другой стороны как-то не наблюдается в природе, чтобы люди бежали, и вообще, чтобы они стали меньше любить наш прекрасный город... Хотелось сказать, что клевета это, мы все равно любим :).
И вот вчера я прочитала в Трибуне статью, которая в существенной степени положила конец моим сомнениям - конечно, нашей любимой Шмич :). Она - голос разума. Да, Чикаго (точнее, графство Кук), потеряло за год 10 тыс населения. Да, больше, чем любое другое графство страны. Но - в графстве Кук проживает более пяти миллионов! И сколько получается убыло? Две десятых процента?
Шмич пишет о том, что в наших условиях небольшой отток населения - это скорее плюс, чем минус, особенно учитывая то, что почти вся прибыль населения за последние годы происходила засчет нелегальных иммигрантов, которых действительно стало меньше.
Let's turn off the alarm for a couple of minutes, fellow Chicago citizens.
The alarm has been screeching for days, since the release of census figures showing that zillions of Chicagoans are racing out of town toward places like Houston, Phoenix, Miami and Atlanta, tossing their snow boots, tax bills and bulletproof vests into the potholes as they go.
Taxes. Winter. Crime. Corruption. Schools. Rahm or Rauner. Rahm and Rauner. The closing of Hot Doug's.
Any or all of these disasters explain why Chicago's interminably gray sky is falling. That's what you'd believe, at any rate, if you listened only to the alarmists.
But let's take a moment today for a quieter look at the population shifts. To help with this task, I've enlisted Rob Paral, aka "Chicago Data Guy," who studies local demographics.
It's true that between July 2014 and July 2015, the population of Cook County, which contains Chicago, declined by 10,488.
As the media have made sure we know: More than any other county in the nation!
But keep in mind that Cook County is the second-largest county in the nation. It has 5.2 million residents.
Ten thousand. Five million.
"That's a very small loss," Paral said. "It's really a story of really slow growth instead of a catastrophe."
Even small losses can be significant omens, of course, and the Chicago area's decline is coupled with a population loss throughout the state, a state that is trapped in an infuriating management mess.
No state budget. Loss of human services. Schools and children in the jaws of intransigent lawmakers. Lots of problems and the frustrations to match.
Still, Paral, though troubled by the trouble, doesn't translate the problems into alarm over the population numbers. In fact, he echoes my hunch.
"I think people use the population to hang their favorite complaint on," he says. "'I'm mad about crime' or 'I don't like Mayor Emanuel.' This verifies their unhappiness. If we were talking to people in Arizona right now, which is growing, I don't think they're any happier. They're just as angry."
Some people blame high taxes for the population decline.
"But look at Kansas and Indiana, which have low taxes," Paral said. "They're having extremely slow growth." New York City is growing despite high taxes.
Crime? It's Chicago's great, tragic shame and it ripples widely. In neighborhoods where crime is a deadly, daily menace, it has contributed to driving away legions of people, notably African-Americans, though exactly why and where they've gone remain insufficiently documented.
On the other hand, it's aging, not crime, that's likelier to explain some of the population decline, in, say, Chicago's suburbs. Mom and Dad are still rattling around in the suburban house after the kids move out.
"What we have is a demographically mature area," Paral said, "not a boom town."
Add immigration to the calculation. Or, more precisely, subtract it.
"In the '90s, when the city had growth, it was all due to immigrants," Paral said. "Mexican immigration has really slowed down. There's almost no undocumented immigration; that was adding a lot of population."
In short, the decline has various and arguable reasons, while, in the meantime, parts of the city are booming.
"The Loop and the surrounding areas are among the fastest growing urban areas of the country," Paral said.
By the way, economic prosperity doesn't always equal more people. In wealthy Lincoln Park, modest old homes and multifamily buildings are routinely torn down to make way for single-family mansions that cover more than one lot.
So how worried should we be about Chicago as Americans everywhere continue to follow the sun?
"In terms of these population numbers, not terribly worried," Paral said. "This represents a trend that started 50 years ago, that includes the entire Midwest and Northeast. It's been happening since that guy Carrier invented the air conditioner."
We tend to equate life with growth, but urban growth comes with problems — ever driven in Atlanta? — and it's not clear that bigger is always better.
"I have a sense that Chicago in a way is too big for the economy it has," Paral said. "It was a 19th century city that exploded like nothing exploded before because of all that manufacturing growth. We're almost stuck with too big of a city. It's hard to say that and it's hard to prove that. But this was a city built for factory workers."
It's the nature of human beings to move around, of cities to change. Chicago people aren't only moving out of the city, they're shifting around in it, and how all this movement will play out is an ongoing mystery.
But I know one thing: I'd rather be navigating this mystery than driving in Houston or Phoenix.