Not only is poverty a lingering problem for Illinois children, but a new report also finds the impacts of the recession have been the harshest for the most disadvantaged groups.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2015 Kids Count Data Book found that 21 percent of Illinois children live in poverty, up from 17 percent in 2008. Larry Joseph, director of research for Voices for Illinois Children, said the recession hit some families particularly hard.
"Between 2008 and 2013," he said, "poverty rates in Illinois increased by six percentage points for black kids, five percentage points for Latino children, but only two percentage points for white children."
The report examines four sets of indicators of child well-being: economic stability, education, health and family and community. Illinois is near the national average in most areas, but fares better than other states in preschool participation and children's health insurance coverage.
Besides the recession, Joseph said, longer-term changes in the structure of the economy have made it difficult for families to make ends meet. He said the job market has become limited for those without higher education, and more parents lack secure employment and pay.
"Median family income has not kept pace with inflation the past 15 years," he said. "Median earnings for full-time, year-round workers have not kept pace with inflation, either."
Joseph said child poverty needs to be addressed with comprehensive policies that strengthen parents' income and work supports. Among them, he listed affordable child care for low-income working families.
"The Childcare Assistance program in Illinois helps parents, in particular single mothers, to maintain stable employment," he said. "Unfortunately, that program is in serious jeopardy."
The governor's proposed budget includes deep cuts to the program and limits eligibility.
On the national level, Joseph said, the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program both help lift families out of poverty, and have positive long-term effects on children.
The full report is online at aecf.org.