Most economists agree that the U.S. is recovering from the Great Recession, but researchers also find many families are still struggling financially.
A scorecard released today by the nonprofit Corporation for Enterprise Development shows the Illinois' economy is a mixed bag.
Kasey Wiedrich, director of applied research at CFED, says the state ranks near the middle of the pack at 29th, mainly because about one in four Illinois residents are stuck in low-wage jobs. She says the state could do more to help.
"Raising the state minimum wage, implementing paid sick leave for workers, give a greater return from the hard work that people are doing, and more flexibility," Wiedrich states.
According to the Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, almost 40 percent of Illinois households are living in what it calls "liquid-asset poverty," meaning they don't have enough emergency savings.
However, the state earned top marks for expanding health care coverage and protections.
Other good grades on the scorecard include Illinois policies regulating home mortgages, foreclosures and the state's direct lending programs to first-time home buyers.
But for families of color, the report notes stark disparities. It says white-owned businesses in Illinois are valued at almost 10 times that of businesses owned by African-Americans.
Wiedrich says this mirrors other national trends, such as an unemployment rate for black Americans that is two points higher than all other workers.
"These disparate outcomes don't only speak to sort of the history of exclusion from the financial mainstream, and discrimination that households of color have faced, but also speaks to future opportunities," she stresses.
The scorecard also suggests Illinois lawmakers could help close the wealth gap by putting more aggressive caps on interest rates of payday lenders, and enacting state child and child care tax credits.