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Communities of Color Continue to Struggle in Illinois

Last week’s new Census data show that in Illinois and across the country, income and health insurance coverage increased while poverty went down between 2014 and 2015. Although this is positive news overall, Illinois’ poverty rates remain higher and incomes lower than before the Great Recession, and African Americans and Latinos continue to have lower incomes and have a harder time making ends meet than whites.

The success of Illinois depends on our state’s commitment to create jobs that pay workers enough to make ends meet, provide quality childcare for young children so parents can work, and the ability for all Illinoisans to afford to see a doctor and stay healthy—all of these things build economic security and thriving communities.

Below are key highlights of the report that show that although there’s much to celebrate in terms of increasing incomes and declining poverty, we must do more to address the continuing gaps for people of color in Illinois.

Highlights from the 2015 American Community Survey data release include:

  • The Illinois poverty rate was 13.6 percent in 2015 down from 14.4 percent in 2014. The federal poverty level for a family of four in 2015 was less than $24,250.
  • Even with slight improvements in the rate, there were more than 7 million Illinoisans living in poverty, an increase of more than 207,000 people in poverty since 2007.
  • Median household income rose from $57,475 in 2014 to $59,588 in 2015, a 3.7 percent increase.
  • While the number and percentage of Illinoisans living in deep poverty—below 50 percent of the federal poverty level— dropped between 2014 and 2015, there were still more than 784,000 Illinoisans (6.2%) living under such dire circumstances. In 2015, a family of four living below 50 percent of the federal poverty level lived on an income of less than $12,125 in 2015.
  • Illinois was among eight states with an increase in income inequality – the gap between the rich and everyone else – between 2014 and 2015.

 Children Most Likely to be Poor

  • Nearly 559,000 children still lived in poverty in 2015 despite a slight improvement in the child poverty rate from 20.2 percent in 2014 to 19.1 percent in 2015.
  • Children of color have higher poverty rates compared to white children. African American children are four times more likely to be poor than white children (39.0% vs. 10.0%).
  • Latino children are nearly three times more likely to be poor compared to white children (27.2%).
  • More than 246,000 (8.4%) of Illinois children were living in deep poverty in 2015. Although this is down slightly from 9 percent in 2014, the rate and number of children living in deep poverty is higher than before the recession.

Slower Improvements in Poverty and Income for African American and Latino households

Although poverty went down and income went up in Illinois between 2014 and 2015, the gains were not as strong for people of color, including African Americans and Latinos. And household incomes for people of color in Illinois are still well below pre-recession levels. Overall, African American household income is half that of white household income.

  • Median Household Income: African American and Latino households continued to earn considerably less than white and Asian households. African American median household income was $33,950 in 2015. It was $49,122 for Latino households, $66,237 for white households, and $80,076 for Asian households. African American and Latino household income increases were much lower than the state average.
  • After adjusting for inflation, African American household incomes declined by $4,894 or 12.6 percent from 2007, while Latino household incomes declined by $5,015 or 9.3 percent. Overall, Illinois incomes were down $2,283 or 3.7 percent in 2015 compared to 2007, showing that African Americans and Latinos were disproportionately harmed by the Great Recession.
  • Race and Poverty: African Americans are three times more likely to be poor compared to whites, with a poverty rate of 28.2 percent compared to just 8.7 percent for whites. Latinos are more than twice as likely to be poor compared to whites. The Latino poverty rate was 19.4 percent.

Low Educational Attainment Closely Tied to Poverty

Educational attainment continues to be an important factor in whether a person is living in poverty. Illinoisans without out a high school degree were twice as likely (23.4%) to live in poverty compared to just 10.1 percent of Illinoisans’ with some college and 4.1 percent of college graduates.

One in Six Illinoisans Struggle with Low Incomes

Many Illinoisans living above the federal poverty level are still struggling. Economic security, defined as the ability to afford basic needs, save for a rainy day, and plan for the future, is out of reach for many Illinoisans. Estimates of what it takes to be financially secure are usually at least twice the poverty line or 200 percent of the federal poverty level—$23,540 annual income for one person or $48,500 for a family of four. In 2015, one in six (16.7%) Illinoisans made less than this.

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