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IL Kids Struggle with Poverty, Racial Disparities

Outcomes in child well-being can vary in Illinois based on the color of a child's skin. (Evgeniy Kalinovskiy/Adobe Stock)
Outcomes in child well-being can vary in Illinois based on the color of a child's skin. (Evgeniy Kalinovskiy/Adobe Stock)
June 17, 2019

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A new report calls for continued work to ensure Illinois children from all walks of life have the opportunity to thrive. The state ranks 23rd nationally in the Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2019 Kids Count Data Book, which is marking its 30th release today.

The report showed significant demographic shifts in Illinois since 1990, with the Latino child population more than doubling and the population of white children and black children declining. Mitch Lifson, vice president for policy and operations with Voices for Illinois Children, said there are some troubling disparities in outcomes.

"With indicators from poverty to health care, household income, how children are doing, there's a very different picture for Illinois children depending on the color of your skin or your ethnicity,” Lifson said.

Illinois' child poverty rate has been stagnant since 1990, at about 17%. More than twice the percentage of black and Latino children live in poverty in Illinois compared with white children.

Lifson contended continued work is needed to help improve the financial stability of families so that children's needs are being met.

"In Illinois over the last couple of years, we've worked to raise the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is definitely a benefit,” Lifson said. “And we do believe that if the state does adopt a fair tax, that will be another way to relieve the tax burden on some of the lower-income households and assist them."

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs at the Casey Foundation, said accurate data is crucial to sound policymaking, and that's why every child must be counted in the 2020 census. More than 55 federal programs that support kids rely on census data.

"That affects things such as how federal resources are allocated to states, the resources that are available for things like schools and roads and libraries,” Boissiere said. “All of that is related to getting an accurate count in the census."

More than 2 million kids under the age of five were missed in the 2010 census.

Disclosure: Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Education, Juvenile Justice, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL