Poverty in Illinois is steadily rising. It stood at 13.3 percent of Illinois households at the end of 2010, up from 13.3 percent in 2009 and on a steady rise from 10.7 percent in 1999, according to Census data. Also up are households in extreme poverty – 6.1 percent in 2010, up from 5.1 percent in 1999 – and children in poverty – 19.2 percent in 2010, up from 18.6 percent in 2009 and 14.0 percent in 1999.
Amy Rynell, senior director of research and policy at the Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights, says poverty is loosely tied to unemployment, but a bigger factor is that jobs don’t pay enough. “We have had wage stagnation and that’s a big one. There are something like 545,000 people in Illinois who are poor who are working,” she said. Median household income, $60,965 in 1999, is now $52,972.
Also on the rise is the rate of households not having health insurance: 15.5 percent in 2010, up from 15 percent in 2009. Rynell says programs such as Temporary Aid to Needy Families, food stamps and Medicaid help those who are poor, but the economic trend toward low wages and rising poverty will continue without a public policy intervention, she says.