Landscape Scan


In February of 2023, Illinois Extension began a five-phase approach strategic planning process. The process has engaged approximately 3,000 Illinoisans in online surveys, opinion polling, and focus group sessions. Seventy-four percent of respondents to the online survey were external, public or partners of Extension, providing a diverse set of perspectives to the organizational work. To complement this data, a robust landscape scan was conducted, resulting in the following findings:

Shifting Age Demographics

In 2034, the US Census Bureau projects that people over the age of 65 will amount to 77M, while children under the age of 18 will number 76.6M. This aging population presents a new set of social and economic challenges, including:

  • The decline in the working age population creates a shortage of qualified workers, making it difficult for businesses to replace roles held by the older population.
  • The retired population live on a lower fixed wage than those still employed, which means they pay fewer taxes. This places a strain on government funding, impacting areas like education, health care, and infrastructure.

Higher education institutions have already been responding to these demographic shifts, with a new focus on non-traditional learning to offset decreases in traditional undergraduate students.

Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic in Illinois


Unemployment Rates

Chicago Population Decline

Healthcare Access

Demographic Effects

In February of 2020, the unemployment rate was 3.4%, but it rose to 17.2% by May 2020. The industries hit the hardest included Leisure and Hospitality, Professional and Business Services and Trade, and Transportation and Utilities.

According to the US Census Bureau, the population of Chicago declined by roughly 2% between 2019 and 2020, which is the largest decline of any city in the country during that time period.

Illinois residents in rural populations had disproportionate access to healthcare resources throughout the pandemic, resulting in higher levels of infection.





Agriculture Effects

The global supply chain disruptions had trickle-down effects to the state of Illinois and its agricultural industry. With many businesses either shut down or operating at reduced capacity, farmers faced challenges getting their products to market

Agricultural workers, particularly those involves in meatpacking and processing plants, were deemed essential workers and continued to work throughout the pandemic. However, many of them were infected with COVID-19, leading to production slowdowns

The pandemic caused significant market volatility, with prices for agricultural products fluctuating significantly. For example, the closure of restaurants led to a drop in demand for certain products, including milk and eggs.  

Demographic Trends


While the Midwest region and greater United States are projected to experience a slight population growth in the coming decade, the population in Illinois is expected to decline.

  • As of 2022, the Midwest made up approximately 21% of the United States population. Declining birth rates will contribute to the slower population growth rate across the US and Illinois

Urban versus Rural Demographic Trends

  • Between 2015 and 2032, both the urban and rural populations are projected to decline by approximately 100,000 residents each, with a slight increase in the proportion residing in urban settings.

Illinois Age Demographic Trends

  • Between 2015 and 2032, the population under 19 in Illinois is projected to decrease by approximately 414,000 people, while the 65 and over population increased by approximately 662,000.
  • As of 2023, there are currently approximately 900,000 more people under 19 than adults over 65.
  • In 10 years, that number is supposed to shrink dramatically to 400,000 more people under 19 than adults over 65.

Unemployment Trends

  • While 2017-2023 unemployment trends were relatively proportional across Illinois, the Midwest, and the United States, Illinois experienced the highest rates.
  • In 2020, the unemployment rate in Illinois hit a historic high of 9.3% due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The areas hit hardest by the pandemic were the leisure and hospitality industries.