PI Original Ellyn Fortino Friday January 30th, 2015, 6:04pm

Illinois Ranks Poorly On Well-Being Indicators; African-American Jobless Rate

Progress Illinois takes a look at two new reports. One ranks Illinois on "key poverty indicators," while the other examines unemployment rates among racial groups in the state.

Illinois is lagging behind other states in many areas when it comes to the well-being of its residents.

That's according to a new report by the Heartland Alliance's Social IMPACT Research Center, which compared Illinois to all U.S. states and the District of Columbia on more than 25 metrics "associated with poverty and hardship."

"By many accounts, Illinois should be a national leader on addressing poverty: Illinois is the fifth largest state, has a rich mix of industries, is home to world class educational institutions, and has a state economy larger than that of many independent nations," report co-author Amy Terpstra, director of the Social IMPACT Research Center, said in a statement. "But when it comes to the well-being of its people, particularly those at the bottom of the economic spectrum, Illinois is not stepping up to be the leader it should be."

For their report, researchers looked at key "poverty indicators" involving jobs, income, education, housing, family assets, health and nutrition.

Illinois has a poverty rate of 14.7 percent, impacting some 1.8 million people, according to the most recent available data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Twenty-four states had poverty rates lower than that of Illinois in 2013, the analysis found.

When it comes to housing, the report showed that some 24 percent of Illinois households spent more than half of their income on rent in 2013. Illinois ranks as 17th worst in the nation for severe rent burdens. Meanwhile, 47 states do better than Illinois when it comes to the number of housing units that are available and affordable to every 100 lowest-income renters.

At 12.6 percent, the state had the 29th highest rate of uninsured children and working-age adults in 2013.  And Illinois ranks worst in the nation for the share of state-provided school funding.

Other findings from the report include:

* 34 states have a better unemployment rate than Illinois's 6.4% as of November 2014
* 21 states have a better on-time high school completion rate than Illinois's 82%
* 17 states have a lower food insecurity rate than Illinois's 14.2%
* 15 states have a lower asset poverty rate than Illinois's 23.5%

Additionally, researchers highlighted the fact that Illinois has the fifth most regressive tax system in the nation, according to a separate study recently issued by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. The analysis showed that the poorest Illinois residents currently pay almost three times more in taxes as a percent of their income compared to the richest people in the state.

"Compounding Illinois' poor showing on these various indicators is the mounting state budget deficit and a tax structure that demands proportionately more from those who have less," added Sid Mohn, the Heartland Alliance's president and co-chair of the Illinois Commission on the Elimination of Poverty. "If our state leaders want to build Illinois' reputation as the best place to live, go to school, work, and play, they must make intentional, long-view decisions that shore up the well-being of all Illinoisans, especially the nearly one third with low incomes."

The report lists several state-level policy recommendations to "ensure the people of Illinois can live the best lives possible and make Illinois more competitive in the process," including boosting the minimum wage; expanding access to college savings programs; increasing affordable housing options; making more investments in health care outreach and enrollment programs; and strengthening "exemption laws that protect a person's bank account and other assets, up to a certain level, so those in debt can continue to work and support themselves and their families."

Breakdown Of Illinois Unemployment Rates Among Racial Groups

Meanwhile, the Economic Policy Institute also issued a new report examining state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity for the fourth quarter of 2014, showing Illinois with the third highest African-American jobless rate over that time period.

For its analysis, EPI only reported unemployment "estimates for states where the sample size of these subgroups is large enough to create an accurate estimate."

Overall, Illinois' fourth-quarter unemployment rate in 2014 was 6.4 percent.

The report showed racial gaps in unemployment, with the African-American rate being nearly three times that of whites. For African Americans in the state, the fourth-quarter unemployment rate was 13.6 percent, followed by Hispanics at 7.7 percent, Asians at 5.2 percent and whites at 4.8 percent, the analysis found.

At the national level, African Americans also had a far higher jobless rate in the fourth quarter of 2014 compared to other groups. Nationwide, the unemployment rate was 10.4 percent among African Americans, 6.5 percent among Hispanics, 4.8 percent among whites and 4.2 percent among Asians.

"This analysis shows that, no matter what the headline numbers show, full economic recovery is still a long way off for many Americans," Valerie Wilson, EPI's director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy, said in a statement. "We should vigorously pursue policies to ensure that recovery reaches everyone -- such as full employment, which would significantly bring down the unemployment rate among people of color."


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