Poverty and Wealth In Illinois: Upstate, Downstate

As you might guess, the collar counties are the state’s richest, though the very richest may surprise you. The poverty downstate is intense in places, along the lines of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods.

Via Chicagoist, the Heartland Alliance has a new report on poverty in the state, “Illinois’s 33%” (PDF), the title referring to the percentage of impoverished (under $23,021 for a family of four) and low-income ($46,042) households in the state; there are about a million people below the federal poverty limit in the state. There are a lot of good statistical breakdowns, and the map of statewide poverty rates reminded me of a post I’d done previously on the geography of child poverty in the state. So I decided to do one of income, impoverished or not.

The poorest counties, by income, can all be found at the southwest tip of the state. The wealthiest, to my surprise, was Kendall County (I thought it would be Lake County); it also has the lowest poverty rate in the state, 5.1 percent. But it’s only good for 37th-wealthiest in the nation. Fun fact: seven of the top ten wealthiest counties, as of 2011, were in Virginia or Maryland. (Why? Because the federal government is shrinking, and by shrinking, I mean contracting out the work, and has been for about 30 years.)

The poorest county by median income in Illinois is Alexander, which is a big reason why the closure of the Tamms Correctional Facility was so fraught. The entire county has a median household income of $28,499, the only county in the state under $30,000. The percentage of people living in poverty is 31.3—one point less than West Englewood. But it doesn’t have the highest percentage of impoverished residents in the state; that’s Jackson, just to the north, where the median household income is $32,868, and the poverty rate is 33.7 percent. If it was part of Chicago, it would be the tenth-poorest community in the city

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