31.6% of Black Households in Illinois Have Negative or Zero Net Wealth

This post is written by Amber Blatt, the Heartland Alliance Policy & Advocacy Intern.

New data from Prosperity Now finds that Illinois families are still struggling to get ahead and become financially secure. In particular, communities of color continue to face barriers and be held back by inequitable policies. An astounding 31.6% of black households have negative or zero net worth in Illinois. The data also highlights the racial wealth gap: the net wealth for black households in Illinois was $5,030 while white households had a net wealth of $147,750.

Prosperity Now’s annual Scorecard provides a comprehensive look at American’s ability to save and get ahead. It assesses 50 states and the District of Columbia on 60 outcome measures for family financial health, grouped by five issue areas: financial assets and income; businesses and jobs; housing and ownership; health care; and education. The Scorecard is designed to jump start conversations about solutions and policies to put households on stronger financial footing.

Here are some key findings from this year’s Scorecard.

31.9% of Illinoisans are liquid asset poor

More than 1 in 3 Illinoisans are liquid asset poor, meaning that they do not have enough liquid savings to cover basic expenses for three months in the event of job loss, a medical emergency, or another upheaval in the family’s life. While Illinois’s liquid asset poverty rate did improve from last year, there are still too many Illinois families struggling with financial insecurity, not knowing how they would cover unexpected expenses.

49.2% of renters & 29.2% of homeowners in Illinois are cost burdened

Nearly half of renters and a third of homeowners spend 30% or more of their income on rent/mortgage. The Scorecard also shows homeownership was 1.6 times higher for white households than households of color. The disparity in homeownership can explain a large component of the differences in net wealth between households of color and white households.

Illinois unemployment rate remains high

Illinois has some of the highest unemployment rates in the country, revealing the lack of opportunity Illinoisans face in building prosperous lives. The unemployment rate in Illinois was 5.9% which is ranked 44th in the nation, and the underemployment rate of 11% was ranked 46th. The unemployment rate is 1.8 times higher for communities of color than for white communities.

20.8% of jobs in Illinois are low-wage jobs

More than 1 in 5 jobs in Illinois are low-wage jobs, which pay below the poverty threshold for a family of four. Such low wages are not nearly enough to cover the cost of living, let alone to invest in emergency savings, a college education, or the purchase of a home.

Take Action

Despite the overwhelming data showing that Illinois families do not have the opportunity to build prosperous lives, Illinois has not taken action on most of the policy recommendations that would help families build savings and stay out of poverty. In addition to family financial health outcomes, the Scorecard ranks states on 53 policies that promote financial security, and Illinois has only enacted 20 of them.

Take a look at Illinois’ 2017 Scorecard Profile, read Prosperity Now’s main findings, and check out our policy agenda to learn more about policies we’re advancing to close the racial wealth divide and help all Illinoisans thrive.


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