News Local/State

Illinois Poverty On The Rise: Report

By Jim Meadows

An annual report on Illinois poverty lists Champaign, Coles and Vermilion Counties as having some of the highest poverty rates in the state. Only Jackson and Alexander Counties in southern Illinois had poverty rates higher than those measured in Champaign County in 2011. The numbers come from "Illinois's 33%," which is  the annual report on Illinois Poverty issued by the Chicago-based Heartland Alliance.

Amy Terpstra is with the Alliance’s Social IMPACT Research Center, which prepared the study. She says some may conclude that Champaign County’s high poverty rate is due to a large number of low-paid college students at the University of Illinois. But she says the county’s poverty numbers are also high among other groups in the county.

"You still see really high rates of poverty among children, really high rates of poverty among seniors, and high rates in areas of the city proper and outside of the metro area," said Terpstra. "Poverty is not just driven by college students in these college towns. There’s certainly a lot more going on there that we need to be looking at."

Champaign County’s poverty rate has increased steadily in recent years.  Figures from 2011 --- the latest available --- put the rate at 23.4%. That’s up from 18.2% in 2007. Illinois' statewide poverty rate was 15% in 2011.

While some counties saw decreases in poverty rates, Terpstra says Illinois poverty overall has increased, even though the recession is considered to have ended during 2009.