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Report: Illinois' Poorest Demographic Is Women Of Color

Heartland Alliance Social Impact Research Center
Illinois Poverty Rates By Race And Gender

A recent report finds mainly women are in poverty in Illinois and improving their financial status would boost the overall economy in the state.

The report from the research arm of the Heartland Alliance concluded that improving wages and other conditions for women would be particularly helpful to women of color.

Katie Buitrago of the Heartland Alliance said women are over half the population in Illinois and that the poverty rate for families headed by women is double that for families headed by single men.

“Gender pay equity is not only an issue for women's human rights, but it deeply impacts families that depend on them, as well, and the economy. Ending the wage gap in Illinois would boost the economy by over $20 billion , and it would benefit over one million children,” she said.

Wage equity is only slowly improving.   The report says If more changes aren’t made,  women will not see equal pay until the year 2065.

Black women are the demographic group that suffers most from poverty in Illinois.

“A few things we can do include addressing and enforcing laws against workplace discrimination to improve job quality and pay for women and gender minorities. …

And when you could change the structure of work to help, women have more stability and success," said Buitrago.

Some of the situations that would be improved include requiring paid sick time statewide, ensuring stable scheduling and improving family and medical leave policy, she said.

Buitrago said those things can be accomplished by expanding the availability of subsidized childcare, not excluding unpaid caregivers and supporting men's ability to provide care.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is news editor and equity and justice beat reporter for NPR Illinois, where she has been on the staff since 2014 after Illinois Issues magazine’s merger with the station. She joined the magazine’s staff in 1998 as projects editor and became managing editor in 2003. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, she was an education reporter and copy editor at three local newspapers, including the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in English from UIS.