Illinois lags behind on addressing poverty

CHICAGO — A new study on poverty finds Illinois doesn’t compare well to other states. poverty-report-2015-cover

The Social IMPACT Research Center’s study entitled “Poor by Comparison: Report on Illinois Poverty,” expected to find Illinois ranking among the best on addressing poverty. That’s not the case, according to the center’s research director, Amy Terpstra.

Terpstra said Illinois is, at best, mediocre, and on many indicators, is actually trailing the pack. She says we’re nowhere near leading in the nation when it comes to all those different poverty indicators.

The sore spots for Illinois in the report include the state’s unemployment rate, and the high percentage of residents dedicating most of their paychecks to housing. More than 24 percent of Illinois households spend more than half of their income on paying rent.

The report recommends solutions like raising the state’s minimum wage and increasing the amount of state funding for public schools, but Terpstra says Illinois’ budget problems are also a big factor when it comes to poverty.

According to Terpstra, until the state addresses its structural deficit and until it addresses the fact that it simply does not have enough revenue to cover its obligations, it’s going to continue to see a disinvestment in anti-poverty programs.

The report also looks at poverty rates by county. Alexander and Jackson counties have the highest rates in the state, though Terpstra points out since 2000, poverty has increased in 99 of the state’s 102 counties.