New Numbers: IL Child Poverty Rises But Most Kids Have Health Care
CHICAGO - New Census Bureau numbers have shown the number of Illinois children living in poverty in 2011 to be higher than expected. The Bureau's American Community Survey found 660,000 children living below the poverty line, about two percent more than the year before. One in four under the age of five lives in poverty.
Larry Joseph, director of Fiscal Policy at Voices for Illinois Children, says research has shown that poverty affects young children for years to come.
"Children who grow up in poverty are more likely to experience harmful levels of stress. They are more likely to struggle in school. They're more likely to experience behavioral, social and emotional problems."
In 2011, the child poverty rate in Illinois increased to just over 21.5 percent from just under 19.5 percent the year before. That's about a percentage point below the national average.
Joseph blames the recession and says he understands that it will take time for the state to recover.
"There is intense pressure to cut spending, and we understand that, but we need to be smart about what we cut."
For example, Joseph points to the 2013 early childhood education budget. The Governor had recommended an increase in funding, and lawmakers cut $25 million. He says he's hoping that when lawmakers return to Springfield after the election they'll consider restoring that funding.
Joseph says he found one bright spot in the Census Bureau Survey.
"Only 3.7 percent of Illinois children lacked health insurance coverage. That compares with a nationwide uninsured rate of 7.5 percent."
So while Illinois ranks right in the middle of the states when it comes to child poverty, only four states did better than Illinois in getting their children covered by health insurance.
More information is at www.census.gov and at www.voices4kids.org.