09/20/2012 01:25 pm ET Updated Sep 20, 2012

Illinois Poverty Rising: New Census Data Shows Major Increases Since 2007


New U.S. census data illuminates the number of Illinoisans facing poverty and other levels of financial insecurity as of 2011. The good news: numbers are stabilizing from year to year. The bad news: the poverty rate is tremendously higher than it was four years earlier.

The data, released last Wednesday, showed that a total of 1.9 million Illinoisans fell below the federal poverty line in 2011, according to the Associated Press. That's a 14 percent increase from the previous year, amounting to approximately 150,000 more impoverished people, a significant increase, but not relative to larger statistical patterns.

Data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, an analysis based on a smaller sample group, was released Thursday, and reported similar, albeit slightly more discouraging results: 150,000 more people falling below the poverty line in 2011 compared to 2010 in Illinois, and an increase of 15,000 Chicagoans living in poverty, for a total of more than 261,000, according to the AP.

Sheldon Danzinger, a University of Michigan economist who studies poverty trends, told the Chicago Tribune these patterns follow a growth in low-paying job sectors while high-paying jobs are downsizing. But Bruce Meyer, an economist who specializes in welfare policy and related topics at the University of Chicago, said Illinois employment rates are poised to rebound, and the poverty rate will decline if national patterns translate locally.

Statewide, unemployment in Illinois stood at 8.9 percent as of July -- up slightly from the previous month -- and in Chicago area, unemployment decreased from 10.8 percent to 9.2 percent.