Demographic snapshot of the area

By Mike Kroll

In 2000 the U.S. Census was completed as per the Constitution requirement that every ten years we count every resident to determine political boundaries. But the Census is also one of the most complete statistical snapshots available to define the demographic makeup of our country, state and town. The earliest data was made available in March of last year but much more comprehensive data was just recently released last month. This data can tell us much about Galesburg and Knox County.

You will find a table accompanying this article that presents a sampling of the Census data for Galesburg, Knox County, statewide and a number of comparable Illinois communities. We have know for over a year that Knox County lost population and Galesburg remained essentially stagnant since the 1990 Census. As more data becomes available we gain a clearer picture of who we are and some of the trends that will affect us in the coming years.

For example, anecdotal evidence has long suggested that the local population was getting older. Comparison of the 1990 and 2000 Census data shows this to be the case. In 2000 the median age in Knox County was 39.4 and Galesburg’s median age was 38.1. This is significantly higher than the statewide average yet even it increased slightly over the last decade. In real terms this means that the distribution of age within our community is skewing upward. There were approximately 500 fewer children under 18 living in Galesburg in 2000 than in 1990.

The most recent Census showed that 17.5 percent of Knox County residents and more than 18 percent of all Galesburg residents were age 65 or older. As the number of children decreases and the elderly increase this will have significant repercussions for elected officials. Better than three out of ten Galesburg and Knox County households have at least one member age 65 or older.

Racially Galesburg is fairly diverse even though the percentage of African Americans is down slightly since the 1990 census. One out of 20 Galesburg residents identify themselves as Hispanic but very few other ethnic groups are well represented in this community.

It is slightly more common for Galesburg residents to live alone than the statewide average. One out of three Galesburg households has only a singe resident. Nevertheless, the average Galesburg household size is 2.25 residents and the typical Galesburg family size is almost three. Whereas non-family households are somewhat more common in Galesburg than statewide 43.6 percent of Galesburg households are married couples. Nearly three our of ten Galesburg households include at least one child.

A quarter of Galesburg residents are students of one kind or another. The biggest group of students is in elementary or middle school grades; one-fifth are in high school and nearly 30 percent are in college. A bit less than 80 percent of Galesburg residents over 25 have high school degrees or the equivalent and 15 percent have college degrees. Both of these are below the state average but the difference is much more pronounced in terms of college degrees. This probably reflects the small number of our children who choose to return to Galesburg or Knox County after college.

Interestingly, when it comes to the income data Galesburg compares unfavorably to Knox County in all three categories. Galesburg also has a markedly higher occurrence of poverty than either the County of state. More than ten percent of Galesburg families were in poverty and families with children were twice as likely to be in poverty. Twenty percent of Galesburg households earn less than $15,000 annually and a quarter of Galesburg families live on $25,000 per year or less!

Census data on housing confirms what most of us already knew, most of our neighbors in Galesburg and Knox County live in single-family dwellings. Two out of three Galesburgers own their homes and even a higher percentage of Knox County residents do. There are relatively few large apartment buildings.

Another telling sign of the slow local economy is reflected in the age of our housing stock. Forty percent of Galesburg’s housing units were built before World War II. Less than five percent were constructed in the last 12 years and a disproportionate number of the housing units that have been built since 1990 have been apartments rather than single-family homes.

While many in our community lamented the fact that Galesburg’s population did not grow over the last decade the real message to be found in the Census is one of a discouraging economic and demographic trend. We should examine this data closely and consider it a wakeup call.

Look at a chart of several cities' comparative data or download a Microsoft Excel® chart of the same comparative data.