In these uncertain times, important questions arise:
- What are the economic challenges facing Illinois families today?
- How are Illinois families faring and meeting their basic needs?
- How much income is needed to ensure Illinois families can reach self-sufficiency?
- What strategies can be implemented to help Illinois families both get by and get ahead?
This report utilizes the 2009 Illinois Self-Sufficiency Standard to help answer these questions. The Self-Sufficiency Standard calculates a very basic, modest budget that helps us better understand the cost of living in each Illinois county for a variety of different family types -- from single adults all the way up to two adults with children of various ages and dependent adults in the household. It illustrates how much income families need to make ends meet, with no public or private assistance.
The Self-Sufficiency Standard illustrates that many more families in Illinois are falling short of economic stability than the traditional measure of hardship -- the federal poverty line -- suggests. The Self-Sufficiency Standard helps us think more broadly about a spectrum of solutions to economic security, from helping families escape poverty to crafting opportunities for families to build assets. The Standard can be used to show that even for a family living right at self-sufficiency, financial security is precarious illustrating the importance of having savings to fall back on in hard times and to get ahead in the future. It allows us to see how critically important income supports are in bridging the gap between the low wages many jobs pay and what it actually takes to meet basic needs. The Standard provides useful benchmarks on wage levels for leaders seeking to strengthen their communities by attracting new businesses with jobs that pay family-supporting wages. It offers a yardstick for income adequacy progress for those looking to move up the career ladder through
education and training.
In Illinois it takes an annual income of $49,030 for a single parent with a preschooler and a school-age child to meet their basic needs without assistance. An estimated 1 million Illinois households (non-senior headed) fall below the Self-Sufficiency Standard, with 652,000 households falling between the poverty line and the Self-
Sufficiency Standard. This report illustrates that the struggles facing many Illinois families did not begin with the current economic crisis. Over the last few decades wages have stagnated and incomes have declined, while the cost of basic goods
has skyrocketed. Consequently, Illinoisans are under tremendous pressure to provide for their families - they have fewer resources available to pay for more.
The report concludes by discussing strategies to help families get by and get ahead and also discusses how advocates, business leaders, policymakers, and service providers can use the Standard as they educate, advocate, and plan in their communities.