FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 20, 2012 CONTACT: Allyson Stewart

Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights Phone: 312.870.4940 Email:

Poverty – Illinois’s New Normal? Illinois Rapidly Loses Ground on Poverty Reduction Commitment
CHICAGO—A 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.

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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

Here’s a quick look at the key trends for Illinois: Top Ten Poorest Counties in Illinois: Top 10 Counties By Percent Poor Champaign County Vermilion County Winnebago County St. Clair County Peoria County DeKalb County Cook County Sangamon County Adams County Kankakee County
*Only counties with a population larger than 65,000 are taken into account in this ranking

Percent in Poverty 24.9 19.7 19.6 19.4 18.7 18.4 17.6 17.3 17.1 16.6

Top 10 Counties by Number Poor Cook County Lake County DuPage County Kane County Winnebago County Will County St. Clair County Champaign County Madison County Peoria County

Number in Poverty 905,232 78,190 70,073 67,635 56,767 55,089 51,593 46,133 37,251 33,908

Top Ten Counties with the Greatest Decline in Median Household Incomes from 2007 to 2011
*Only counties with a population larger than 65,000 are taken into account in this ranking

Median Household Income Lake County McHenry County Winnebago County DeKalb County Kane County Tazewell County Champaign County Madison County Cook County DuPage County

2011 Amount $ 74,266 $ 70,117 $ 43,603 $ 51,327 $ 66,497 $ 49,237 $ 39,591 $ 50,372 $ 50,813 $ 74,072

2007 Amount $ 84,429 $ 79,495 $ 52,177 $ 59,545 $ 74,287 $ 56,766 $ 47,085 $ 56,641 $ 57,018 $ 79,697

Change from 2007 to 2011 $ -10,163 $ -9,378 $ -8,574 $ -8,218 $ -7,790 $ -7,529 $ -7,494 $ -6,269 $ -6,205 $ -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.

Please contact Allyson Stewart, Phone: 312.870.4940, Email:



Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights is the leading anti-poverty organization in the Midwest and believes that all of us deserve the opportunity to improve our lives. Each year, we help ensure this opportunity for more than one million people around the world who are homeless, living in poverty, or seeking safety. Our policy efforts strengthen communities; our comprehensive services empower those we serve to rebuild and transform their lives. The Social Impact Research Center (IMPACT), the research arm of Heartland Alliance, provides dynamic research and analysis on today’s most pressing social issues and solutions to inform and equip those working toward a just global society. The Illinois Commission on the Elimination of Poverty is an independent body that was formed in 2008 to create a strategy for the state to cut extreme poverty in half in a manner consistent with international human rights standards. The Commission issued its recommended strategy in Building a Pathway to Dignity & Work, a report released in December of 2010. The Commission’s 2012 Annual Progress Report fulfills the statutory directive that the Commission report annually on the implementation of its poverty elimination strategy and on progress the state has made toward the 2015 goal. The Commission is staffed by the office of Governor Pat Quinn and by Heartland Alliance. For more information: 312.870.4949 | |

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