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Illinois Counties On Poverty Warning List Climb

Heartland Alliance Social Impact Research Center
Of Illinois' 102 counties, 67 appear on a poverty watch list formed by the Heartland Alliance

More counties appear on an anti-poverty group’s watch and warning lists this year than last.

Of the state’s 102 counties, 67 are on a watch list — or more serious warning list — created by the research arm of the Heartland Alliance, which works on social issues in areas that include poverty. That’s up from 52 last year.

This year, 14 counties throughout the state made the severe warning list.

The report, which includes an interactive map by county, looks at indicators on poverty, unemployment, teen births and high school graduation rates to determine which locations are on the list.

Katie Buitrago, director for the Heartland Alliance’s research unit, said the report shows Illinois is still hurting because of the two-year budget impasse, which ended in 2017.

“We need to make a targeted effort to invest in human services and dismantle the policies and practices that perpetuate poverty and racial inequity,” she said.

Buitrago said the most recent poverty rates in Illinois — produced from U.S. Census data — are higher than before the Great Recession. 

That is an indicator of how Illinois’ poverty rates have stagnated even as most of the rest of the nation has seen improvement, she said.

“We need to do better,” Buitrago said. “We’re the fifth-largest economy in the country. We should be leading the nation in addressing poverty, instead we’re trailing. “

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.
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