Heartland Alliance's Analysis of New Report: Hardship, Inequities, and Income Inequality in Illinois

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New data from the U.S. Census Bureau revealed today that poverty in Illinois decreased from 2014 to 2015, following national trends. Despite this heartening improvement, however, poverty in Illinois remains stubbornly high – 13.6% compared to 11.9% in 2007 before the recession.

“The increase in income inequality and the persistence of racial disparities in 2015 tell us that Illinois is leaving low-income families and communities of color behind.” - Sam Tuttle, Director of Policy at Heartland Alliance

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau revealed today that poverty in Illinois decreased from 2014 to 2015, following national trends. Despite this heartening improvement, however, poverty in Illinois remains stubbornly high – 13.6% compared to 11.9% in 2007 before the recession. Moreover, the new data show a number of trends moving in the wrong direction: Illinois is one of only 8 states in which income inequality grew, and wide racial disparities persist on nearly every measure.

“While we are pleased to see the poverty rate generally moving in the right direction, we can’t lose sight of the fact that a staggering number of Illinoisans are still struggling every day to meet their most basic needs,” said Amy Terpstra, Director of Research at Heartland Alliance. “Over 1.7 million Illinoisans are living in poverty, and about 785,000 of them are living in extreme poverty, which for a family of four means living on less than about $12,000 per year.”

The United States has been in economic recovery for a number of years now, but meaningful improvements for Illinois and the nation have been slow to reach those who need it most.

“The lesson is that our lowest income residents are the first to be impacted by an economic crisis, they experience the most hardship, and they are the last to experience any recovery,” said Sam Tuttle, Director of Policy at Heartland Alliance. “This is precisely why we need to invest in programs and policies that address poverty and inequity: so that regardless of the economic climate, more individuals are able to build and maintain stable lives.”

Illinois has entered its second year without a state budget, and the burden of this falls on the backs of the millions of Illinoisans in poverty. The resulting erosion of services that help connect people to work, ensure low-income workers can access child care, provide MAP grants for students seeking an education, and help survivors of violence recover will make it much more difficult for people to meet their basic needs and move out of poverty.

Today’s release revealed:

  • Illinois poverty declined from 2014 to 2015 and is now at 13.6%. The poverty rate is still 1.7 percentage points above its pre-recession 2007 level of 11.9%.
  • Extreme poverty—having income below half the poverty line—also declined in Illinois and is now at 6.2%. 785,000 Illinoisans are extremely poor.
  • Illinois median household income increased to $59,588 in 2015. Income is still 4% below its 2007 level.
  • The rate of non-seniors in Illinois who are uninsured fell to 8.1%, a 3 percentage point decline from 2014 and a dramatic decline of 6.1 percentage points from 2008.
  • Illinois is one of only 8 states where income inequality worsened from 2014 to 2015. Illinois is one of the most unequal states in the nation.
  • While white Illinois households experienced an increase in median household income from 2014 to 2015, black and Latino households in Illinois did not see any increase.
  • People of color are disproportionately impacted by poverty: 8.7% of white, non-Latino Illinoisan are poor compared to 28.2% of black Illinoisans and 19.4% of Latino Illinoisans.

“The increase in income inequality and the persistence of racial disparities in 2015 tell us that Illinois is leaving low-income families and communities of color behind,” said Tuttle. “We should be making targeted efforts to dismantle the policies and practices that perpetuate racial inequity and income inequality – not cutting the programs that help address these disparities as has been Illinois’ approach as of late.”

Read the fact sheet on Illinois and Chicago region poverty, income, and health insurance trends based on the newly released data.

Download data books for Chicago Community Areas and for all cities and townships in the 6-county Chicago metropolitan region.

Access the Census Bureau’s local demographic, social, economic, and housing data that were released today for places with populations of 65,000 or more. Contact Heartland Alliance for assistance accessing and interpreting the data.

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Heartland Alliance for Human Rights & Human Needs – Heartland Alliance, one of the world’s leading anti-poverty organizations, works in communities in the U.S. and abroad to serve those who are homeless, living in poverty, or seeking safety. It provides a comprehensive array of services in the areas of health, housing, jobs, and justice – and leads state and national policy efforts, which target lasting change for individuals and society. For more information visit, http://www.heartlandalliance.org or follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/heartlandhelps or like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/heartlandalliance.

Heartland Alliance Research & Policy - Heartland Alliance’s Research & Policy Division focuses on the realization of human rights through ending poverty, racism, and injustice by engaging in research on social issues and solutions, policy and systems change, and field building nationwide. Learn more at https://www.heartlandalliance.org/get-informed/research-policy-landing.

CONTACT: Amber Cason
acason(at)heartlandalliance(dot)org
312.870.4960

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Amber Cason
Heartland Alliance
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