SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - An annual state-by-state snapshot of child well-being finds both good and bad news in Illinois.
According to the 2014 edition of the national Kids County Data Book, Illinois has seen improvements over the last decade in the teen birth rate, as well as the mortality rate for children and teens, and the number of kids with health insurance. Larry Joseph, research director with Voices for Illinois Children, says efforts to reduce poverty through the state's Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are also highlighted in the report.
"After years of advocacy by Voices and its coalition partners," he says, "the Illinois General Assembly enacted legislation that doubled the EITC from five percent of the federal credit to 10 percent of the federal credit in 2013."
According to Joseph, the EITC now benefits more than one million Illinois children, and he says his organization is now working to expand it to 20 percent of the federal credit over a five-year period. He notes that on most indicators in the report Illinois is close to, or somewhat better, than the national average.
Troubling trends remain, however, as the report finds the child poverty rate in Illinois increased from 16 percent in 2005 to 22 percent in 2012. Joseph says this highlights the importance of maintaining and strengthening programs such as food assistance and the state's Child Care Assistance Program. He says Illinois also needs to renew its investment in early childhood education.
"We know from a vast body of research evidence this has substantial payoffs in terms of school readiness, educational outcomes later in school, and in terms of economic outcomes in adult life," says Joseph.
Since 2009, funding cuts in Illinois have reduced the number of children participating in state-funded preschool by about 25,000.
This year marks the 25th edition of the national Kids Count Data Book, published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.