Poverty Level in Illinois Rising

– Illinois’s New Normal?

Illinois Rapidly Loses Ground on Poverty Reduction

Census Bureau report released today presents a startling picture of poverty in Illinois.
In combination with the Illinois Commission on the Elimination of Poverty
report released last week, the reports reveal that the state is sliding backwards in its stated commitment to halve the number of
Illinoisans living in extreme poverty by 2015: 

  • Over 1 in 7 (1,879,965 or 15%) of Illinoisans
    lives with income below the poverty line, a significant increase of nearly
    150,000 people since 2010 and more than 380,000 people since 2007 (an
    increase of 3.1 percentage points from 2007 when it was 11.9%). 
  • More than 1 in 5 Illinois children lived
    in poverty in 2011.
  • 6.9% of Illinoisans lived in extreme
    poverty in 2011, up 100,000 people in just one year and almost 200,000
    people since 2007 before the last recession began.
  • 533,375 Illinoisans living in poverty
    worked in the last year, 103,447 of them full-time, year round.
  • Median household income in Illinois was
    $53,234 in 2011, a statistically significant drop from 2010 ($54,644) and
    a huge decline of $5,500 from 2007 before the last recession began.
  • Income inequality grew across Illinois
    from 2010 to 2011.
  • Illinois was 1 of only 9 states that had
    an increase in children living in low-income households (households with
    an income below 200% of the poverty threshold) in 2011.
  • 2,245,488
    people in Illinois were living on low incomes in 2011. This is an increase
    of 216,000 people from 2007 before the last recession began.

 The Social IMPACT Research Center
at Heartland Alliance, the leading anti-poverty organization in the Midwest,
has analyzed the new census data released today and has poverty experts
available to provide analysis of the new data and discuss their context and
implications. IMPACT has created local fact sheets that include a 2011 snapshot
and outline income and poverty trends and health insurance coverage information
for all Illinois counties with populations over 65,000 as well as Midwest
states. The fact sheets will be available on request and will also be made
available throughout the day on Thursday, September 20 and Friday, September 21
at http://www.heartlandalliance.org/research/.

Here’s a quick look at the key
trends for Illinois:

Ten Poorest Counties in Illinois:

counties with a population larger than 65,000 are taken into account in this



Top 10 Counties By Percent

Percent in           Poverty 


Top 10 Counties by Number Poor 

        Number in Poverty 

Champaign County



Cook County


Vermilion County



Lake County


Winnebago County



DuPage County


St. Clair County



Kane County


Peoria County



Winnebago County


DeKalb County



Will County


Cook County



St. Clair County


Sangamon County



Champaign County


Adams County



Madison County


Kankakee County



Peoria County






Ten Counties with the Greatest Decline in Median Household Incomes from 2007
to 2011


counties with a population larger than 65,000 are taken into account in this


Median Household Income 

2011 Amount 

2007 Amount 

       Change from  

       2007 to 2011 


Lake County

 $            74,266

 $            84,429

 $                -10,163


McHenry County

 $            70,117

 $            79,495

 $                  -9,378


Winnebago County

 $            43,603

 $            52,177

 $                  -8,574


DeKalb County

 $            51,327

 $            59,545

 $                  -8,218


Kane County

 $            66,497

 $            74,287

 $                  -7,790


Tazewell County

 $            49,237

 $            56,766

 $                  -7,529


Champaign County

 $            39,591

 $            47,085

 $                  -7,494


Madison County

 $            50,372

 $            56,641

 $                  -6,269


Cook County

 $            50,813

 $            57,018

 $                  -6,205


DuPage County

 $            74,072

 $            79,697

 $                  -5,625


The growing number of individuals
experiencing extreme poverty and the lack of policy solutions advanced to
address the growing need signifies an absence of political will and lack of
commitment among decision makers to reduce poverty. “These near unprecedented
poverty levels are not solely the result of the recession and a sluggish
recovery. Poverty was on the rise before
the recession began as negative shifts in wages, job quality, workforce
preparation, inequality, and harmful cuts to the safety net disproportionately
impacted people at the lower end of the income spectrum,” says Amy Rynell,
Director of the Social IMPACT Research Center at Heartland Alliance. Instead of
acting to reverse this trend, the state not only stalled 11 of 12 bills
introduced in the 2012 session to address poverty, but continued to cut funding
for key programs.

The Poverty Commission’s report
offers a series
of recommendations
that can help Illinois refocus its efforts and take steps towards
the achievable goal of cutting extreme poverty in half. The recommendations
include an increase in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash
grant to bring those covered up to 50% of the federal poverty level, an
increase in the TANF participation rate to reach half of all those eligible,
expansion of rental housing subsidies to an additional 2,500 households,
provision of 2,500 new community college scholarships for those living in
extreme poverty, and creation of a statewide Transitional Jobs program to
create 40,000 new jobs.

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