Mt. Vernon Register-News

January 17, 2013

County has 17.6 percent poverty rate

The report also places the state with a 33 percent poverty level

By TESA GLASS
tesa.glass@register-news.com

MT. VERNON — — The most recent information released on poverty rates around the state show Jefferson County with 17.6 percent poverty.

The report, released by the Heartland Alliance Ending Poverty and conducted by the Social IMPACT Research Center, places the state with a 33 percent poverty level.

“One third of Illinois residents are in poverty or near it,” said Amy Rynell, senior director of the Social IMPACT Research Center. “Over one in five of our children are poor. And, the situation has only gotten worse in recent years, with poverty among all ages rising from 11.9 percent in 2007 to 15 percent most recently. This report provides reliable information about the scope and scale of poverty in Illinois so our state and local leaders, concerned citizens, funders, businesses, communities of faith and community-based organizations have a better sense of how to approach ending poverty at a critical point in history.”

The report shows 28 of the 102 counties have a poverty rate between 15 and 20 percent.

“Nearly 1.9 million Illinoisans (15 percent) live in poverty,” the report states. “A family of four is poor if its annual income is below $23,021. Of the 1.9 million experiencing poverty, 55 percent are female, 35 percent are children, 46 percent are minorities, 84 percent are native born, 14 percent have a disability (and) 46 percent are in extreme poverty, with incomes below 50 percent of the poverty level. Another 2.2 million Illinoisans (17.9 percent) are living close enough to the poverty line (with incomes between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level) that they could easily fall below it at any time. Together these two groups of Illinoisans comprise Illinois’ 33 percent.”

According to the report, Jefferson County had an 8.4 unemployment rate as of September 2012, a .5 percent decrease from 2011. The poverty rate of 17.6 percent is an increase of .6 percent over the previous year. The child poverty rate increased by 2.6 percent for Jefferson County, coming in at 27.5 percent.

The median household income in the county is at $42,601 — up 1.9 percent from 2010. The report also lists the percentage of severely rent-burdened households for the period of 2007 to 2011; the health uninsured rate for non-seniors; the food security rate; and the average personal debt and the percent with consumer credit scores below 620.

For Jefferson County, the percent of severely rent-burdened households for 2007 to 2011 was at 24.8 percent; the percentage of health uninsured for 2010 was at 13.4 percent; and the percentage with food insecurity for 2010 was 14.8 percent. The average personal debt, as of June 12 was at $6,714 and the percentage of consumers with credit scores below 620 as of June 2012 was 27.2 percent.

The report identifies economic forces such as unemployment, declining wage levels and growing inequality having a direct impact on poverty.

“When combined with other hardships like inadequate education, high rent burden, poor health and lack of access to financial asset-building opportunities, these economic forces create a climate ripe for poverty growth,” the report states. “Every one percentage point increase in the unemployment rate causes a .5 percentage point increase in the poverty rate. Conversely, a 10 percent increase in the median wage lowers the poverty rate by 1.5 percent.”

For surrounding counties, Franklin County came in with an 18.6 percent poverty rate; Hamilton County was at 15.5 percent poverty; Marion County was at 17.1 percent poverty; Washington County came in with a 9.5 percent poverty rate and Wayne County was at a 12.6 percent poverty rate.

There are recommendations contained within the report.

“Recognizing that poverty has no single cause, IMPACT offers the state several recommendations for addressing poverty,” the report states. “Increase the minimum wage (currently $8.25 per hour in Illinois), and expand it to include domestic workers, workers under 18 years old, and workers who rely primarily on tips for their wages so that people who work don’t remain trapped in poverty. Increase access to the state’s 529 college savings program, making college an attainable dream for more Illinois children. Return homeless prevention funding to previous levels to help more families remain housed. Fully implement the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion and state-based health insurance exchange, and support Illinois’s transition to care coordination programs to help improve health outcomes and maximize cost-effectiveness. Expand retirement saving opportunities through an automatic retirement account program to help struggling families build wealth and escape financial insecurity.”