© 2023 NPR Illinois
The Capital's NPR News Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
HIRING! Help fund the NPR Illinois mission to inform the community by securing business sponsorships.

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 lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers, and covering the equity beat. Maureen joined the Illinois Issues in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Related Stories