Poverty

Poverty can be measured and understood in different ways. This page presents official poverty measures for different areas in Illinois, as well as alternative ways of understanding poverty. The information is organized as follows:

  • Individual Poverty Rates These traditional poverty rates show the percentage of individuals in poverty.
  • Family Poverty These data paint a broader picture of life in poverty, with special emphasis on the family unit. This provides an alternative perspective to the standard poverty rate, which reveals only individuals in poverty.
  • Establishing Poverty This section is a review of how poverty is established by the U.S. Census Bureau. 
  • Measuring Poverty This section explains alternative ways of measuring poverty

Individual Poverty Rates


Illinois Poverty1Data filtered and analyzed by the Social IMPACT Research Center, from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

2016 Poverty Rate in Illinois: 13.0%
2015 Poverty Rate in Illinois: 13.6%
2014 Poverty Rate in Illinois: 14.4%

1,621,508 Illinoisans were living at or below the poverty threshold in 2016. Out of those living below the poverty threshold, 46% faced extreme poverty.

For more from the 2016 Census data on poverty, check out this factsheet from Social IMPACT. The Social IMPACT Research Center also provides in-depth analysis of poverty in Illinois on its Illinois Poverty Report website. There, you can find county data, and full reports, such as:

Chicago Poverty2Data filtered and analyzed by the Social IMPACT Research Center, from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

2016 Poverty Rate in Chicago: 19.1%
2015 Poverty Rate in Chicago: 20.9%
2014 Poverty Rate in Chicago: 22.0%

Roughly 513,000 Chicagoans were living at or below the poverty threshold in 2016.

Chicago Community Area Poverty3Data filtered and analyzed by the Social IMPACT Research Center, from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey 1-year estimates.

The SociaCommunityAreaIndicators2015l IMPACT Research Center reports individual poverty rates for Chicago neighborhoods in its report Chicago Community Area Indicators. Also in the report are estimates of Chicagoans living in extreme poverty (50% of Federal Poverty Threshold or below) and low-income conditions (200% of FPL threshold or below).4Information based on Social IMPACT’s analysis of the 2008-2012 5-year estimate from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Illinois City Poverty5Data from 2015-2016 1-year estimate of the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, available from the American FactFinder. Data is not available for 2016-2017.

2015 Poverty Rates in…
Aurora: 14.6%
Decatur: 25.0%
East St. Louis: 45.4%
Kankakee: 32.3%
Peoria: 19.6%
Rockford: 22.4%
Springfield: 21.1%

 

Further Poverty Data

NYT poverty map

Credit: New York Times

To obtain data for shorter time frames (such as one-year estimates) visit the American Community Survey FactFinder. The FactFinder is a resource of the U.S. Census Bureau, providing demographic, economic, social, housing and other pertinent information for over 7,000 different geographic areas nationwide.6For more information about the FactFinder, as well as instructions for using it, read the WIRE’s Guide to the FactFinder.

In January 2014, the New York Times released the map to the left–a detailed map of poverty rates across the United States. The map shows poverty by county and by census tract (the smallest geographic area used by the Census Bureau).7Based on 2012 US Census data.

Family Poverty


Working Poor Families Project

Every year, the Working Poor- Families Project analyzes U.S. Census data to collect key indicators about working poor and low-income families in every state. Following are select figures from this dataset, which can be found in its entirety here.

In Illinois…35.4% of poor families are working.8Working Poor Families
Project, 2017, Chapter 1, Table 1.A.1b.

In the United States…34.9% of poor families are working.9Working Poor Families Project, 2017, Chapter 1, Table 1.A.1b.

Definitions:

The Working Poor Families Project defines terms and explains source data extensively in its Framework of Indicators.
Family: Primary married couple or single parent family with at least one child under age 18.
Working Family: A family where all family members age 15 and over have a combined work effort of 39 or more weeks in the last 12 months or all family members age 15 and over have a combined work effort of 26 or more weeks in the last 12 months and one currently unemployed parent looked for work in the previous four weeks. The federal government defines family income as based on all family members age 15 and over. Poor families are those that fall below 100% of the poverty threshold set by the Census Bureau.
Family in Poverty (Poor Family): A family with an income below the threshold for poverty as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Low-Income Family: A family whose income is below 200% of the poverty threshold.

Chicago Household Poverty

The City of Chicago’s Data Portal provides household poverty rates by neighborhood, in contrast to the individual poverty rates filtered by the Social IMPACT research center, provided above on this page.

Establishing Poverty


Poverty is estimated through  both the poverty guidelines and poverty thresholds sourced from the federal government. Poverty thresholds are used to define and quantify poverty in America each year, while poverty guidelines are simplified measures used for administrative purposes by the Department of Health and Human Services. 10source: Institute for Research on Poverty. “What are poverty thresholds and guidelines?” University of Wisconsin Madison. Accessed 09 November 2017. https://www.irp.wisc.edu/faqs/faq1.htm

Poverty Thresholds

The above estimates of poverty are made by the U.S. Census Bureau. They determine poverty status using thresholds, which are determined by estimating family needs, and how much those cost. The annual income of the family is then compared to these thresholds. The thresholds vary based on family size, number of children, and age of householder and are updated annually. They do not vary geographically.

A few examples of poverty thresholds for 2016 are as follows:11Here is the full chart of poverty thresholds for 2015, as well as historic poverty threshold charts.

Size and Description of Family Unit Poverty Threshold
One Person $12,228
Two People (None are kids) $15,569
Three People (One is a kid) $19,105
Four People (Two are kids) $24,563

Poverty Guidelines

Poverty guidelines are more often used for determining financial eligibility for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Though often confused with thresholds, they are slightly different measures.  They are issued each year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The poverty guidelines for 2017 are as follows:12Here is the full chart of poverty guidelines for 2017, as well as historic poverty guidelines.

Family Size Poverty Guidelines
One $12,060
Two $16,240
Three $20,420
Four $24,600

For more on measuring poverty, see the US Census Bureau’s main Poverty Page, or check out the Income and Poverty In the United States: 2016 Report.

What does the poverty rate miss? The poverty rate doesn’t necessarily capture what it means to be able to fulfill basic needs in different areas across the country, nor make meaningful investments in education, retirement, or healthcare. To explore what a living salary is, look at our self-sufficiency page.

Measuring Poverty


The Supplemental Poverty Measure

All the data you’ve seen on this page is based off of one measure: the Official Poverty Measure (OPM) used by the federal government. This measure is the same for all states, counties, and cities in the United States (even if poverty looks very different in different places). The Official Poverty Measure is comparatively narrow next to the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM); take a look for yourself clicking the link below:


The key elements of the SPM are measuring cash income, benefit programs, as well as tax credits, many of which are directed at the poor as well as expenditures on basic needs. The SPM takes into account how anti-poverty programs reduce poverty, which the OPM does not. The SPM is also much more current than the OPM: OPM’s measurement of the poverty threshold is partially based on food costs from 1963!

According to the Center for American Progress, the current poverty measure accounts for 1/7th of the average family’s expenses. 13source: “It’s Time for A Better Poverty Measurement, americanprogress.org

Disaggregating data for measurements of the SPM helps show how different policy choices, such as CHIP or Social Security, can shape poverty. Also, given different costs and employability for different populations, the poverty measure will vary. See the graph below for more information.

 

Source: U.S. Census Bureau “The Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2016”

The National Academy of Science Measure  14source: “It’s Time for A Better Poverty Measurement, americanprogress.org

As we mentioned just before, current poverty thresholds were created in the 1960s. In the 1990s, the National Academy of Sciences recommended that the poverty measure be a threshold to afford basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter counting cash and noncash resources and varying by location. With the NAS measure, poverty thresholds and rates are higher than the current Federal measurement nationwide, with a decrease in extreme poverty.

Disaggregated Poverty Data


Why is it important to separate out data? Disaggregated data highlights patterns that are masked by describing the entire population in one statistic. As you can see in the above graphic, poverty varies by race: 2016 poverty among African Americans in Illinois was at 26.5%, more than double that of Whites at 9.7%. National, state-wide, and local statistics do not demonstrate this extreme differential.

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