Chicago Sun-Times, April 16, 2008: Poverty hits record levels in area suburbs

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April 16, 2008

BY DAN ROZEK Staff Reporter/

More suburban Chicago residents are struggling with poverty than ever before, largely because of falling incomes, rising costs and a regressive tax system, according to a study released today by the Chicago-based Heartland Alliance.

Poverty rates in most suburban counties are growing dramatically faster than their populations — and are outpacing the increase in Chicago’s poverty rate, the group says in a new study.

The hardest-hit region is suburban Cook County, where the poverty rate grew by 91.5 percent between 1980 and 2006 — an increase that dwarfs the 9.2 percent population increase during the same span.

But poverty rates increased more modestly in five of the six collar counties during that same time, though the rate jumped by 63 percent in DuPage County and 38 percent in McHenry County. Only Will County showed a decrease, dropping 9.4 percent in that time.

In Chicago, the poverty rate increased by 4.4 percent.

“These numbers should dispel the myth that poverty is a problem confined to big cities and rural communities,” Sid Mohn, president of the Heartland Alliance, said in a statement.

While people still are settling in the suburbs, more of them are struggling to get by financially.

“The rate of poverty is growing much faster than the population,” said Amy Terpstra, a research associate who worked on the study.

In 1980, about 24 percent of the Chicago area’s poor lived in the suburbs. That figure now has climbed to 41.5 percent, Heartland officials said.

The poverty line for a family of four is $21,200 a year.

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