Troubling racial disparities persist in Illinois across a range of quality-of-life measures, shows a new report from the Heartland Alliance's Social IMPACT Research Center.
Statewide, 1.8 million Illinoisans live in poverty, representing about 14.4 percent of the population. Among whites, the poverty rate is 9.3 percent, compared with 30.6 percent among blacks, 19.9 percent among Latinos and 12.3 percent among Asians, the report showed. Black children in Illinois have the highest poverty rate of 43.2 percent, which is about four times that of white children.
In addition to poverty, there are racial differences in many other well-being indicators examined in the report.
Among the findings:
- The Illinois school districts with the most students of color receive 16% less in funding per student than districts serving the fewest students of color.
- Unemployment rates are far higher for black Illinois workers than whites at every educational level.
- Illinoisans of color are 2 to 3 times more likely to not have health insurance.
- Black Illinoisans on average live 6 years less than whites.
- Poor black (16%) and Latino (22%) Illinoisans are more likely to live within a mile of a hazardous chemical facility than poor whites (13%).
"The consistency and persistence of these severe disparities by race in Illinois underscore how much more work we have to do," report co-author Amy Terpstra, director of the Social IMPACT Research Center, said in a statement. "These inequities are the product of the public policies, market forces, and institutional practices of both yesterday and today, which systematically place barriers in the path of Illinoisans of color."
The report also includes nationwide statistics. When it comes to median net worth, for example, the nationwide figure is $110,500 for a white household, compared with $6,314 for a black household.
Several proposed policy actions are included in the report. An immediate recommendation is for Illinois to enact a budget. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic leaders have been warring over a budget for more than seven months, leaving many social services unfunded since July 1, the start of the 2016 fiscal year.
"People experiencing poverty and communities of color are bearing the brunt of this [budget] crisis," the report says. "Many vital programs, already reeling from years of cuts, may not survive a protracted budget battle, putting the health and safety of the Illinoisans with the fewest resources as risk. Programs and services that advance racial equity and make sure every Illinoisan has a chance to thrive are slowly disappearing. These critical programs include homeless youth programs, supportive housing, reentry programs, and anti-violence programs. Illinois must choose revenue to advance a responsible budget, without cutting programs that help create opportunity and move us closer to a more equitable Illinois."