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2010 Report on Illinois Poverty

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Publication Date: November 2010

Publisher(s): Social IMPACT Research Group; Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights

Topic: Social conditions (Poverty and homelessness)

Keywords: Illinois; Poverty; Hunger; Homelessness


This 2010 report caps a decade of Heartland Alliance’s annual reports on poverty. The project was initiated at a time when economic prosperity seemed widespread and the future outlook was infused with optimism. The goal with these reports at that time was simple: to serve as a caution that the rising tide of prosperity in the late 1990s had not lifted all boats and that many in our communities were being left behind.
Today the situation is very different. The Great Recession has crumbled economic stability for millions of families in the form of massive job loss, cut backs in hours, the elimination of work benefits, skyrocketing foreclosures and bankruptcies, and the eroding value of retirement investments.
And people who had the least to start with before the recession—those who Heartland Alliance was concerned with when this project began a decade ago—were hit first, hit hardest, and will recover slowest. Consider, for example, that workers in the lowest income group in Illinois had a 1930’s-like unemployment rate of 27.0% in the 4th quarter of 2009 when Illinois’ overall unemployment rate was 10.2%.1
The poverty data in this report are the most current available but reflect 2008 and therefore do not fully capture the effects of the recession. Even so, the magnitude of hardship reflected here is staggering.
At this moment of unprecedented need, strong and responsive public benefits and human services are crucial to keeping families afloat until recovery reaches main street. Long-term economic shifts, which have left millions in low-wage jobs that do not pay family-supporting wages, also point to the need for a constant and responsive safety net to help families bridge the gap between what they are paid and what it takes to make ends meet.
Yet years of disinvestment in Illinois’ safety net, combined with the effects of the recession and an antiquated state revenue system, have resulted in an erosion of human services across the state.
The implications of massive service cuts to those experiencing poverty—many of whom rely on state-funded services in their communities literally for survival, particularly those in extreme poverty—will be nothing short of devastating. Without leadership to enact a responsible budget, Illinois can expect to see deepening hardship and further entrenchment of social problems.


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