Child poverty remains problem in Illinois, report says

From Illinois Business Journal news services

SPRINGFIELD – New data is highlighting the extent and persistence of child poverty in Illinois. The Illinois Kids Count 2015 report reveals that in 2013 more than 600,000 children, about one-in-five, were living in poverty.

Voices for Illinois Children released the findings today.

Director of research Larry Joseph says the rates mirror those nationally and, as a whole, were higher than pre-recession levels and much higher than in 1999.

“These findings reflect both the lingering effects of the Great Recession and the longer-term economic trends as well,” says Joseph. “Child poverty rates are likely to remain high even as unemployment subsides.”

The report also found the geography of poverty in Illinois has changed significantly. The city of Chicago accounted for almost half of the state’s population of children in poverty in 1999, but only one-third in 2012.

The share in the metro suburbs was one-fifth in 1999, and rose to one-third in 2012. Some of the largest increases in child poverty rates occurred in economically distressed areas outside of metropolitan Chicago.

According to the report, Illinois’s continued fiscal crisis has impeded existing efforts to alleviate child poverty. Joseph says the expiration of the state’s temporary income tax increase made a difficult situation much worse, and he fears what’s to come.

“The governor’s budget for fiscal year 2016 would contain some cuts to programs affecting low-income children and families,” he says. “That’s very harmful.”

Joseph says growing up in poverty can hinder children’s ability to learn and their physical and social-emotional health, and impact social and economic outcomes as adults. But he says solving child poverty is a complex problem.

“There are no silver bullets. There are no simple solutions,” says Joseph. “It has to be confronted with a comprehensive set of policy strategies. It has to be a sustained effort to expand opportunities for kids and their families.”

The strategies outlined in the report include: enhancing tax credits for low-income working families, strengthening food assistance and renewing investments in early-childhood education.

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