Jeff and Linda Hlista lived in a tri-level house in Oak Lawn up until a few years ago, when a property tax bill that was once $1,000 a year rose to a hefty $5,500.
They had enough and moved to Highland, where they found that just about everything – including tax bills, cigarettes and movie tickets – was cheaper than it was in Illinois. They now pay $4 to $4.50 per pack of cigarettes, instead of $9 or $10. They no longer worry about falling behind on property taxes and losing their home.
"The assessed value of our house fell by $40,000, but the taxes continued to rise," Jeff Hlista said. "I couldn't figure that one out."
The Hlistas are part of a growing number of residents who have decided to move away from Illinois.
Leading moving company United Van Lines recently released an annual migration study that ranked Illinois second in the number of people moving out, behind only New Jersey. About 61 percent of moves by Illinois residents were outbound.
Illinois ranked first nationally in the number of residents leaving in 2011, and has been second for each of the past two years, according to the United Van Lines study. The nation's largest household goods mover determined that about 49 percent of the moves in Indiana last year were into the state while slightly more than 50 percent were outbound, which is considered a healthy balance.
Indiana did not fare much better in a similar study by Evansville-based Atlas Van Lines, which found the Hoosier State was third in outbound migration.
Atlas helped 1,244 people move into Indiana last year, while it hauled 1,816 people's possessions out of state. Indiana's 59 percent outbound rate trailed only Connecticut and New York. About 57 percent of the people who hired the moving company in Illinois were headed out of the state.
That is the case with much of the Midwest, according to the Atlas study. More than 55 percent of on-the-move people also were headed out of Ohio, Minnesota and Nebraska. Also, no Midwestern state has been inbound instead of outbound or balanced for more than 10 consecutive years.
More people have, in fact, left Indiana and Illinois than moved in for each of the past 10 years, according to the annual migration study. Last year, many people were beating a path to Texas and Western states.
Oregon topped the United Van Lines list of states people were flocking to.
"Business incentives, industrial growth and relatively lower costs of living are attracting jobs and people to the Southeastern and Western states, such as South Dakota, Colorado and Texas," said Michael Stoll, and economist and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. "We're also seeing continued migration to the Pacific Northwest as young professionals and retirees are drawn to amenities including public transit, green space and the local arts and entertainment scene."
The Hlistas decided to move just across the state line, even though Linda has lived her whole life in Oak Lawn.
Taxes were too high in Illinois, and jobs were to scarce, Jeff Hlista said. He grew up in Hessville, and now lives close to the stores and restaurants that line Indianapolis Boulevard. He and his wife are beachgoers who enjoy the short 15-minute drive to the beach
"It's expensive to live there, in Cook County," said Linda Hlista. "It's like the whole state is migrating out of Illinois."
Her husband found a job immediately after moving to Indiana, and they enjoy more disposable income because of the lower cost of living. They are able to go to the movies more often.
"I might make a Walmart run once a month," Jeff Hlista said. "It comes out to being $20 to $30 cheaper in Schererville than it was at the Walmart in Bridgeview. But overall, we're happy with the quality of life."