More children in Illinois, U.S. living in poverty than before recession

SHARE More children in Illinois, U.S. living in poverty than before recession
SHARE More children in Illinois, U.S. living in poverty than before recession

More children in Illinois and nationwide are living in poverty after the Great Recession, receiving no lift from an economic turnaround, according to an annual child welfare report released Tuesday.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation report found 1 in 5 children — 22 percent of children nationwide and 21 percent in Illinois — were living in poverty in 2013. That’s compared to 2008, just after the recession started, when 18 percent of children nationwide and 17 percent in Illinois lived in poverty.

In Chicago, the number rose to 33 percent, or one in three children living in poverty in 2013, from 30 percent in 2008, according to the 2015 Kids Count Data Book.

The report ranked all 50 states on 16 indicators of child well-being — from parental education and marriage status to health insurance coverage and quality of education — and placed Illinois at No. 20.

Among significant findings were that more children are raised in single-parent homes, and fewer lived with parents who had secure employment in 2013, compared to 2008. The federal poverty level in 2013 was $23,600 for a married couple with two children and $18,800 for a single parent with two children.

Nancy Salgado, 28, of Logan Square, has one of those families. The single mother is raising her 9-year-old daughter and 4-year-old on two part-time jobs — Burger King and housecleaning — and bringing in less than $1,000 monthly.

“It’s really hard when you’re working every day and still can’t make ends meet,” said Salgado, who is active in the Fight for $15 movement in the Chicago area. She spoke Tuesday as she was preparing for a Thursday rally of hundreds in Chicago to mark this week’s expected decision by the New York Wage Board on a $15 wage for fast-food workers there.

“I never wanted to apply for a Link card, because I wanted to provide for my children myself, but I finally broke down last year because it was either that or my kids going hungry,” she said. “People are working for poverty wages, and we need to raise the minimum wage.”

Nationwide, the study found an astounding one in seven — or 14 percent of American children — living in high-poverty neighborhoods, the highest proportion since 1990. In Illinois, 12 percent of children lived in such areas, marked by a poverty rate of over 30 percent, low-quality schools and high crime.

Poverty rates were nearly double for children in African-American families — the only group for whom unemployment remained higher than before the recession, according to the report. It also found American Indian children twice as likely to lack health insurance and Latino children most likely to live with a parent lacking a high school diploma.

“The affects of the recession has been harshest for the most disadvantaged groups, and despite positive economic trends nationally and in Illinois, recovery from the great recession is leaving too many low-income families behind,” said Larry Joseph, director of research for the child advocacy group Voices for Illinois Children.

The economic erosion has resulted in a significant shift in the geographic distribution of poverty, according to Joseph’s group. Nearly half of the state’s poor children lived in Chicago in 1999; today, only a third. Cook and the collar counties, however, are now home to a third of the state’s poor children, up from a fifth in 1999.

“It’s a reflection of the fact that more and more working people are poor,” said John Bouman, president of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty in Chicago. “This is part of the case for minimum wage relief, expansion of the earned income and sales tax credits and changes to child care assistance, health care eligibility, and other things that help people be able to work or to complete degree and certificate programs, and be able succeed in the workforce.”


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