Conference at Harper shows a picture of increasing poverty in the suburbs
Experts say nearly one-fourth of children living in the Northwest suburbs belong to low-income households, and they lack resources to address their needs.
That, says a researcher who addressed a conference on poverty Friday at Harper College, is because many people still associate poverty with inner-cities or rural areas. As a result, community organizations dealing with growing suburban poverty aren't getting the support they need, said Elizabeth Kneebone, research director of University of California-Berkeley's Terner Center for Housing Innovation.
"It doesn't take a lot for many of us to slip below the poverty line," Kneebone said. "Our landscape has shifted, but our policies and programs haven't."
School officials on hand for the event acknowledged the challenge.
"Our communities are becoming higher-poverty communities. We have to be more intentional about our work with them," Northwest Suburban High School District 214 Superintendent David Schuler said.
Kneebone said communities can help by improving transit links between suburbs, providing access to more jobs and resources and supporting local nonprofits working with the poor. She presented a range of statistics on suburban poverty, including:
• More than half the Chicago region's low-income population -- 54 percent -- lived in the suburbs in 2017 -- up from 39 percent in 2000.
• Nationwide, the suburbs today house 3 million more poor people than major metropolitan areas.
• The average poverty rate for the Northwest suburbs is about 8 percent. Poverty rates have grown unevenly across the region -- about 17 percent in Carpentersville, roughly 15 percent in Elgin, 11 percent in Hanover Park and Wheeling, about 10 percent in Palatine and Prospect Heights and 6 percent in Schaumburg.
• Low-income populations more than doubled since 2000 in 12 suburban communities -- nine of them the Northwest suburban towns of Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Carpentersville, Des Plaines, Elk Grove Village, Hanover Park, Palatine, Schaumburg and Wheeling.
• Nearly half of the low-income population in the Northwest suburbs are children and seniors.
The program was organized by the Northwest Educational Council for Student Success and United Palatine Coalition, and drew educators from District 214 (20 percent low-income students), Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 (36 percent) and Barrington Unit District 220 (19 percent).