Child Poverty in Illinois: a Growing Crisis

Last month, Social IMPACT Research Center  told the story of poverty across the entire United States and here at home in Illinois. The article showed a steady rise in poverty rates at both geographic scales. In Illinois, the prevalence of child poverty was extremely pronounced. Informed by IMPACT’s published data analyses, the graph below illustrates the rise of not only poverty across all age groups, race and gender, but more importantly among children.

CSA_ChildrensPoverty_graph_small-01(1)_4The percentage of Illinois households living below the poverty rose from 11.9 % to 15.0 from 2007 to 2011. Not only was the percentage of children in poverty higher for every year, but the gap between the general populace and children is growing into a chasm. Whereas in 2007 Illinois children were 4.4% more likely than the general Illinois populace to live in poverty, today Illinois children are 6.3% more likely to face the hardships and uncertainty of poverty. The scariest fact about this graph is that every year in the past five, without fail child poverty has been increasing at a faster rate than for the whole of Illinois.

Child poverty is generational poverty. Growing up in poverty does not only hurt your quality of life as a child, but impairs the opportunities available to one as they grow up. Education is the universal ladder out of poverty. Asset Building programs like Children’s Saving Accounts have cascading effects throughout the lives of children growing up in poverty. At last week’s CFED Assets Learning Conference, I heard from three young women who started savings accounts as youths, are now in and graduating from college, and credit those accounts as critical to making college affordable and manageable. One young woman noted that while she had received scholarships to pay for tuition, it was only through the money she had saved previously that she was able to afford her school books.

At the 2012 Illinois Asset Building Group Biennial Conference – Assets Matter: A Bridge to Economic Security, Children’s Savings Accounts will be discussed in multiple sessions. We will be discussing how to improve access to 529 Children’s Savings Accounts for all households – ensuring that all families have access to the tools they need to create opportunities for their children. Children’s Savings Accounts are very effective, easy to implement, and can truly stem the growth of generational poverty explicit in the Child Poverty data out of Illinois.

Please join us at the 2012 Illinois Asset Building Group Conference – Assets Matter: A Bridge to Economic Security in Champaign, Illinois on November 15th-16th.

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