Study: Morgan County rated one of the poorest counties in state

By Gary Scott on February 14, 2015 at 6:43am

Morgan County is tops on a list that focuses on poverty in Illinois on a county-by-county level.

A report released late last month by the Chicago-based Social Impact Research Center shows Morgan, Montgomery, Wayne and Union Counties as all being on a “warning” list based on a well-being index that factors high school graduation rates, unemployement, teen pregnancy and poverty rates.

45 of Illinois’ 102 counties are on a watch or warning list in this report. Greene and Scott County are on the watch list, while Cass County is on neither.

Jennifer Clary, a senior research associate for the center, says the afforementioned categories are inter-related indicators of hardship.

“When people are experiencing poverty and unemployment, for those who have become parents very young, or those who have sort of limited educational attainment, if they’re not able to successfully complete high school and continue to move forward with their education, this has some sort of compounding net effect,” she says.

“There’s a lot of disadvantage that’s associated with each of these indicators.”

Clary notes while Illinois is the fifth-most-economically-powerful state in the U.S., it’s “mediocre at best” and “doing quite poorly” on a number of measures to ensure everyone’s economic security needs are being met.

“One of the things that we’re looking at that’s really important is raising the minimum wage, which we know has not kept pace with inflation,” she says.

“Also ensuring adequate funding for human services and safety net programs that help to move people out of poverty. Having the education to be able to move forward and succeed with employment is crucial. Having employment available that isn’t just a job, but a quality job that’s going to pay families supporting wages, but also offer other kinds of security like paid sick time,” continues Clary.

She adds that in order to ensure that counties receive state resources needed to curb poverty, it’s critical the state explores weighs to increase revenue by making the state tax systems more progressive.

The Social Impact Research Center study indicates the state poverty rate has gone up consistently since 2010.

Nearly 15 percent of the people in Illinois lived at or below the poverty line in 2013. That’s about 2 million people who had incomes of $24-thousand or less for a family of four.