* Chicago Magazine took a look at the Chicago-area social service providers from that devastating United Way of Illinois survey we’ve talked about before…
Chicago-area humanitarian groups have long warned that the Illinois state budget crisis would cause irreparable damage to the state’s social safety net, and the latest survey numbers suggest it’s already happened.
Of the 172 human service agencies in Cook, Lake, DuPage, and Will County surveyed by United Way this month, 91 percent said they had cut clients due to budget troubles. That’s up from 37 percent of agencies who said the same in July 2015.
More than half (55 percent) of the agencies said they would have to cease some services within the next six months if the state doesn’t fix its budget problem. And 36 percent say they will have to close their doors in that time frame. That’s 61 groups providing services like shelters for the homeless, food for the hungry, mental health care, support for domestic violence victims, and educational services that will soon shutter, according the United Way survey.
* And then there’s this context…
While it’s never a good sign for social service organizations to be shuttering and turning down clients, this comes at a particularly tough time for the Chicago metro area, as the Metropolitan Planning Council reports that the middle class is shrinking (down 9 percent between 2000 and 2014) and mostly moving into the lower class (up 16 percent in the same time frame). As Marisa Novara writes, “This may be due in part to the fact that our unemployment rate jumped a full 63 percent from 2000 to 2014, from 4.3 percent to 7.1, an increase second only to Los Angeles among peer metros.”
* From that MPC report…
A conundrum amidst continuous news of the endless permutations of the middle class: If the middle class is shrinking, is it because the lower class is growing, or the upper? It turns out that for the Chicago region, it’s both, with substantially higher growth among the lower-income. From 2000 to 2014, the percentage of lower-income metro Chicagoans grew from 23.6 to 27.4, a jump of 16 percent. Middle incomers dropped from 56.3 to 51.1, a loss of 9 percent, and upper incomers grew from 20.2 to 21.5, an increase of 6 percent.
These changes are actually less extreme than those in, for instance, the Minneapolis/St. Paul region, where the lower class grew by 22 percent, middle class fell by 11 percent, and upper class increased 12 percent.
According to Pew, looking back further to 1970 shows an even more pronounced shrinking of the middle class. For the entire country, the middle-income share decreased from 61 percent in 1971 to 50 percent in 2015. Over this nearly 45-year period, the share of the upper-income tier rose from 14 percent to 21 percent, and the share in the lower-income tier increased from 25 percent to 29 percent.
According to Census data, Chicago’s shift was even more extreme: The share of middle class families in metropolitan Chicago has declined from 72 percent in 1970 to just 47 percent today.