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United Way: 36 percent of Illinois households can’t afford basic necessities

Thursday, Mar 5, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) joined the United Way in releasing their report on Illinois ALICE households – asset-limited, income-constrained and employed.

The report focuses on families living above the federal poverty level, but below the threshold of a basic survival budget of $57,144 for a family of four and $19,212 for a single adult.

“People all over Illinois are struggling to get ahead. We know this intuitively, and we see it in our communities. I see it every day in my west side and west suburban district,” Lightford said. “ALICE allows us to put some real data behind that intuition.”

In Lightford’s district, only 18% of households fall below the poverty line, but many more people than that are unable to afford an unexpected car repair or be able to put anything aside for the future. Those households are much more represented in the more than 47% of households in the 4th Senate District that are ALICE households.

Lawmakers will use the data to help better understand the needs of Illinoisans as they make public policy decisions to help struggling families.

* Deb Pressey at the News-Gazette

Researchers found 36 percent of Illinois households didn’t earn enough to cover that basic survival budget in 2017, the most recent year for which data was available. That included 12 percent of households at or below the poverty level and another 24 percent above the poverty line but still below the survival budget thresholds.

While Illinois households in the ALICE category earned significantly more than the federal poverty level of $24,600 for a family of four and $12,060 for a single adult, they still didn’t earn enough to cover the cost of housing, child care, food, transportation, health care and technology, researchers found.

* From the report’s executive summary, here is the “range of obstacles to achieving financial stability”

• The extent of hardship: Of Illinois’ 4.8 million households, 12 percent lived in poverty in 2017 and twice as many — another 24 percent — were ALICE households. Combined, 36 percent (1,758,032 households) had income below the ALICE Threshold, an increase of 20 percent since 2007.

• The basic cost of living: The cost of basic household expenses in Illinois increased steadily to $57,144 for a family of four (two adults with one infant and one preschooler) and $19,212 for a single adult — significantly higher than the FPL of $24,600 for a family of four and $12,060 for a single adult. The cost of the family budget increased by 38 percent from 2007 to 2017, driven primarily by increases in the cost of housing, health care, and child care, and by the addition of a basic smartphone plan to the budget.

• Low wages: Low-wage jobs continued to dominate the landscape in Illinois, with 56 percent of all jobs paying less than $20 per hour. Although unemployment rates fell during this period, wages remained low for many occupations. With more contract work and on-demand jobs, job instability also increased, making it difficult for ALICE workers to meet regular monthly expenses or to save. In addition, gaps in wages varied based on the type of employer as well as the gender, education, and race/ethnicity of workers.

• The role of public assistance: Public and private assistance continued to provide support to many households living in poverty or earning slightly above the FPL, but it provided less support to ALICE households whose income was above eligibility levels. Spending on health care and health insurance outpaced spending in other budget areas; there remained large gaps in other types of assistance, especially in housing and child care.

* Emerging trends

• The changing American household — Shifting demographics, including the rise of millennials, the aging of baby boomers, and domestic and foreign migration patterns, are having an impact on who is living together in households and where and how people work. These changes, in turn, influence the demand for goods and services, ranging from the location of housing to the provision of caregiving.

• Increasing vulnerability of workers — Within a global economy, economic disruptions, natural disasters, and technological advances in other parts of the world trigger rapid change in supply and demand for U.S. industries. Increasingly, this risk has been shifted from companies to workers. In addition to the often-disruptive effects of technology on jobs and the workplace, ALICE workers have low wages and increasingly face income volatility.

• Growing health inequality — As health costs rise, disparities in health increase, especially according to income. Expensive medical and technological advances that are out of reach of lower-income households will only further this divide. The societal costs of having large numbers of U.S. residents in poor health will also grow.

Click here for the summary and click here for the full report. Click here for an interactive county map. Lots of poverty in southern Illinois.

* Related…

* More deep poverty found north of Dempster

* General Assembly forecasters agree with administration on revenue estimate

* Legislators Mull Creation of Behavioral Health Workforce Center

* Food stamp change fuels anxiety as states try to curb impact

* New Report Finds Illinois Women And Girls Face “Barriers” To Success


  1. - JP - Thursday, Mar 5, 20 @ 10:51 am:

    I would be interested in knowing what the researchers defined as economically “viable” in this study. I am also flabbergasted that they found a four-child family needs nearly 100k per year to achieve this “viability.” Though my experience may only be anecdotal, I was raised in a house of nine children with nowhere near that budget - the systems in place within this state allowed my family to live quite comfortably; not necessarily as well as those whose parents made corporate salaries, but a living nowhere near what I would call “poverty”.

  2. - ktkat1 - Thursday, Mar 5, 20 @ 11:13 am:

    No one should be surprised by this. The minimal increases in pay has not kept up with the costs for housing, food, clothing and utilities. As a single mother over 25 years ago, I found a way to manage but even then I struggled. Now? I wouldn’t even try…

  3. - Downstate - Thursday, Mar 5, 20 @ 11:17 am:

    If your son/daughter is searching for something, have them look at the railroad industry. Conductor trainee positions are always open. Only a high school education is required. Starting pay exceeds most college degree starting salaries.

  4. - revvedup - Thursday, Mar 5, 20 @ 11:54 am:

    One basic issue is the laughably low poverty standards. $12,080 for a single person is barely enough to pay rent in some less than desirable areas. Factor in food and clothes, let alone transportation, and it’s gone. The Federal Poverty Line is set far too low for everybody.

  5. - Blandish - Thursday, Mar 5, 20 @ 12:19 pm:

    This should be kept in mind whenever a new sales tax or fee is considered.

  6. - Union thug - Thursday, Mar 5, 20 @ 12:52 pm:

    “This should be kept in mind whenever a new sales tax or fee is considered.”

    I take it you support the fair tax then?

  7. - Say What? - Thursday, Mar 5, 20 @ 1:18 pm:

    What do the numbers look like by region, indexed to account for dramatic cost of living differences ?

  8. - Blue Dog Dem - Thursday, Mar 5, 20 @ 2:06 pm:

    Just think of the expenses I didnt have as a 20 yr. Old.
    Cell phone.
    Ridiculous property taxes.
    Ridiculous home owners.
    Ridiculous health care.
    Ridiculous electric fees.

  9. - Anonanonsir - Thursday, Mar 5, 20 @ 2:17 pm:

    ==$12,080 for a single person is barely enough to pay rent in some less than desirable areas.==


    ==The cost of the family budget increased by 38 percent from 2007 to 2017==

    That’s more than double the government’s CPI increase of about 18%. When you look at your significant expenses, how many of them increase by 1.6% per year or less? Kinda makes you wonder about the government’s inflation numbers.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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