Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Thursday March 19th, 2015, 5:31pm

Report Calls Attention To Racial Divide Among Low-Income Illinois Families

Minority working families are about twice as likely to be low-income than white working families at both the national level and in Illinois.

That's one of the key findings of a new report by the Working Poor Families Project, a national initiative focused on strengthening state-level policies to help working families attain economic security.

Illinois is home to over 400,000 low-income working families, representing 30 percent of all working families in the state, according to the report. Low-income working families are defined as those with incomes below 200 percent of the official poverty level.

Forty-six percent of all minority working families in Illinois were low-income in 2013, compared with 20 percent of white, non-Hispanic working families.

Among African-American and Latino working families in Illinois, 51 percent of each group had incomes less than twice the federal poverty level.

Nationwide, minorities made up 40 percent of the nearly 33 million U.S. working families in 2013. But when it comes to America's 10.6 million working families who are low-income, minorities accounted for the largest share -- 58 percent.

Among other notable findings, the economic gap between white and all minority working families grew to 25 percentage points in 2013. That's up from a 23 percentage-point gap in 2007, before the Great Recession, according to the report, based on the latest U.S. Census data.

The growing economic gap among working families along racial lines "pos[es] a critical equity and economic challenge to Illinois and the nation," according to the Chicago Jobs Council, an organization focused on anti-poverty issues.

The Chicago Jobs Council helped release the report's Illinois-based findings. 

"This report describes the conditions of our current and future workforce," the Chicago Jobs Council's Executive Director Carrie Thomas noted in a statement. "The disparities impact our economy and harm the fabric of Illinois communities. Not only is it past time to address the growing divide, but our new governor proposed a state budget that is already disproportionately affecting these same working families."

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget for fiscal year 2016 does not call for increased taxes, but, instead, recommends significant cuts to higher education, Medicaid and other essential services as a means to tackle the state's dire fiscal problems.

Several state-level recommendations to reduce disparities among working families are outlined in the report, including raising the minimum wage; increasing investment in education, job training and health access; implementing paid sick leave policies for employers; and expanding access to affordable childcare, among others.

"Providing all low-income families with the tools they need to succeed is critical to the long-term health of our state and nation," Thomas added. "So far, the new governor's proposals will only deepen the economic challenges faced by working families. The report is another wake-up call to the real economic conditions faced by thousands of Illinois families."

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