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More than 1.8 million people living in poverty statewide

Job lines like this one Oak Brook 2009 reflect stagnant employment market pushing more people inpoverty. | AP file

Job lines, like this one in Oak Brook in 2009, reflect a stagnant employment market pushing more people into poverty. | AP file

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Updated: November 9, 2011 5:23PM

Illinois had more poor people last year than it has had in nearly two decades, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau that also showed the number of impoverished nationally at a new high.

More than 1.82 million people lived in poverty in Illinois last year, up from 1.69 million. That was the biggest number of poor since 1992 when there were 1.86 million people who were impoverished.

The poverty rate last year rose to 14.1 percent from 13.2 percent in 2009, data showed.

Nationally, the overall poverty rate climbed to 15.1 percent, or 46.2 million Americans — the biggest number since the Census Bureau began tracking poverty in 1959 — and up from 14.3 percent, or 43.6 million in 2009.

The poverty rate in Illinois and nationally has risen for three straight years.

The report defines poverty as $22,314 for a family of four.

“The significant increases in poverty that we see in this data reflect a stagnant economy, an economy where workers, particularly those at the lower end of the labor market are having a hard time finding a job that can provide for their families,” said Scott Allard, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.

The data also reflects the high number of long-term unemployed, those unemployed for 27 weeks or more, a group that’s more likely to fall into poverty, he said. That group encompassed more than 6 million people nationally in August — 42.9 percent of the 14 million unemployed. In Illinois, nearly half of the 675,000 unemployed in the state last year were long-term unemployed.

“The economic data suggests that these (poverty) trends aren’t likely to change in the near future,” Allard said, adding it “reflects the importance of safety net programs…which provide really critical help to working families who are having a hard time providing the basics.”

The Census Bureau said if it were not for unemployment insurance benefits paid last year, 3.2 million more people would have been counted among the poor, and if it were not for Social Security benefits paid out, the number of seniors aged 65 and older living in poverty would be higher by nearly 14 million, quintupling the number of elderly people in poverty.

The report also revealed the percent of uninsured in Illinois rose to 14.8 from 14.2 in 2009. There were 1.91 million people uninsured in the state last year, up from 1.81 million. Nationally, 49.9 million Americans had no health insurance, or 16.3 percent, up from 16.1 percent, or 49 million.

Median household income in Illinois fell 5.5 percent to $50,761 last year from $53,743, the report showed. Nationally, it dropped 2.3 percent to $49,445, from $50,599. Since 2007, median household income has declined 6.4 percent.

The Census Bureau also said nationally:

*The poverty rate rose for all races, except Asians. For blacks it rose to 27.4 percent from 25.8. For Hispanics, it rose to 26.6 percent from 25.3 percent. For whites it rose to 9.9 percent from 9.4 percent. For Asians it fell to 12.1 percent from 12.5 percent.

*For people ages 18 to 64, the poverty rate increased to 13.7 percent from 12.9 percent, and for people ages 65 and over, it rose to 9 percent from 8.9 percent.

*Young adults ages 25 to 34 living with their parents had a poverty rate of 8.4 percent, but if their poverty status were determined by using their own income, 45.3 percent would be poor.

Contributing: AP

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