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Background on the commission

Poverty is the absence of human rights. Wherever poverty manifests itself; we know that human rights are not being fulfilled. Instead of families having a roof over their heads and food on the table, we see homelessness, hunger, and hardship.

This is particularly evident when it comes to extreme poverty - individuals and families living at 50% of the poverty line or less. According to the latest census data, 1.5 million Illinoisans live in poverty and close to 700,000 of them are living in extreme poverty. 1

To this end, the Commission on the Elimination of Poverty was created to address poverty in Illinois in a comprehensive manner that is consistent with international human rights standards. The initial charge of the Commission is to create a Poverty Elimination Strategic Plan that will cut extreme poverty in Illinois in half by 2015. This charge stems from the preamble to the Constitution of the State of Illinois which states that the elimination of poverty and inequality are core goals of our State government.

Individuals from every race, ethnic group, age, and gender live in extreme poverty. However, there are some groups more prone to living in extreme poverty. For example:

  • Senior women are 61% more likely to be living in extreme poverty than senior men.
  • Individuals without a high school diploma are more than three times more likely to be living in extreme poverty than someone with a college degree.
  • One in thirty-three white Non-Hispanics in Illinois are in extreme poverty, while slightly over one in five African-Americans are living in extreme poverty; thus setting the number amongst African-Americans almost three-fold compared to white Non-Hispanics.
  • Working age women that have never married are 68% more likely to be living in extreme poverty than working age men that have never married.

Using human rights values and principles and a solid understanding of those impacted by extreme poverty to guide their work, members of the Commission have been working since the fall of 2009 to develop the substantive, measurable recommendations that will allow the state to reach the 2015 goal. Many of these recommendations will be measured against a comprehensive measure of poverty that can reflect the impact of these changes on the state's true poverty rate.

The Commission will release the Strategic Plan in November of 2010. The Commission will continue its work after the release of the Strategic Plan to both advocate for the adoption of its recommendations, track the progress the state is making towards the 2015 goal, and make its voice heard on emerging issues that may impact those experiencing poverty in Illinois. The final report will also be shared with the 

National Governor's Association (NGA)


to be used as best practices nationally. Illinois was selected to be part of the NGA's Poverty Learning Network and continues to actively participate in and contribute to that effort.

 More information on the structure and charge of the Commission on the Elimination of Poverty can be found in the Illinois Compiled Statues at 20 ILCS 4080.



1 Social IMPACT Research Center of Heartland Alliance's analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau's 2008 American Community Survey