SPRINGFIELD -- The number of Illinois residents living in poverty stabilized in 2011, according to U.S. census data released Wednesday.
There were 9,000 more impoverished Illinoisans, for a total of 1.8 million -- about 14 percent. That's virtually unchanged from the previous year.
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But it represents an increase of more than a half-million people, or 43 percent, since 2007. That year, 10 percent of the population fell below the poverty line.
Illinois mirrored the nation in poverty numbers. Nationally, there were 46 million impoverished people last year, or 15 percent, about the same as a year earlier, according to the Census Bureau.
"That particular statistic hasn't gotten worse, but we're starting from a pretty awful position of such a high poverty rate," said Dan Lesser, director of economic justice for the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.
For 2011 figures, the Census Bureau considered the poverty level to be an annual income of about $23,000 for a family of four.
The Social IMPACT Research Center at the Heartland Alliance counted 842,000 Illinoisans living in "extreme poverty" -- earning less than half the official poverty level. That's an increase of 235,000 in the four years since Illinois started an anti-poverty commission, according to Heartland.