Poverty hits Black, Hispanic Chicagoans hardest, but education, jobs fix that

Poverty hits Black, Hispanic Chicagoans hardest, but education, jobs fix that

Black and Hispanic Chicagoans are persistently impacted by poverty more than other racial groups. What city and state leaders need to focus on is helping people down the path of education, job and then family.

Poverty disproportionately hurts Black and Hispanic Chicagoans, but research shows there is a proven way to change that.

The Black poverty rate in Chicago is 27.7%, well above the overall Chicago poverty rate of 16.9% and more than triple the white rate of 8.5%. The Hispanic poverty rate is 16.1%. Chicago is performing worse than the country overall, where the poverty rate is 11.5%.

There is a path out of poverty and into self-reliance. It is called the “success sequence.”

The success sequence is to complete high school, secure stable employment, then get married and wait until age 21 to have children. It was first refined by Brookings Institution researchers and has been proposed as a solution to poverty in Chicago in a report by the Illinois Policy Institute. Only 2% of Americans who follow the success sequence are in poverty, compared to 11.5% of all Americans.

We know the success sequence works for everybody, including Blacks and Hispanics. The latest research by the Institute for Family Studies indicates the “vast majority of black (96%) and Hispanic (97%) millennials who followed this sequence are not poor in their mid-30s (ages 32 to 38).”

Prospects are much poorer among those who do not follow the success sequence.

Because education is such a crucial component in the success sequence, it’s imperative that Chicago schools focus on reversing failing outcomes for its students.

Nationally, 54% of young adults who miss all three steps of the success sequence end up in poverty. Among Blacks and Hispanics, poverty rates are even higher. Of Black millennials without a high school diploma or a full-time job by their mid-20s, who also did not get married before having children, 73% are in poverty from the ages of 32 to 38. Of Hispanic millennials who miss all three steps, 54% are in poverty by their mid-30s.

In 2023 only 16.5% of Black CPS students were proficient in English and language arts, and only 8.1% in math. Chronic absenteeism among Black students was 45.8%. Despite these poor outcomes, the Black graduation rate in the CPS system was 79%.

Outcomes among Hispanic students were similarly troublesome in 2023. Only 21.2% of Hispanic CPS students were proficient in English and language arts, while only 13.6% were proficient in math. Chronic absenteeism among Hispanic students jumped to 40.3%, up 88% since 2019. Nevertheless, the Hispanic graduation rate was 83.8%.

Black and Hispanic Chicagoans also do not have sufficient access to stable employment to be able to follow the success sequence. The unemployment rates among Blacks and Hispanics aged 16 years or older in the Chicago metropolitan statistical area stand at 14.3% and 6.8% – both higher than that of any other ethnic or racial category.

Inequitable, harmful disparities also persist between Black and Hispanic Chicagoans and other Chicagoans regarding family formation and stability. Educational attainment, marital status and poverty are all closely intertwined. Children born outside of a stable, two-parent household are more likely to experience lower educational attainment and unstable relationships, thus increasing their likelihood of being impoverished.

As of 2020, 79% of all Black children in Illinois, and 82% in Chicago, are born to unmarried mothers. Unmarried mothers bear 53% of all Hispanic children in Illinois, and 57% in Chicago. Overall, 41% of children in Illinois and 46% in Chicago are born to unmarried mothers. Nationally, 41% of children were born to unmarried mothers as of 2020. In Chicago, only 12% of white children and 10% of Asian children are born to unmarried mothers. Such disparities make it more difficult for Black and Hispanic Chicagoans to achieve the economic and social mobility they deserve.

There are clear public policy solutions to improve the socioeconomic situation among Black and Hispanic Chicagoans. Educational opportunity can be increased by strengthening educational instruction within our public schools and improving parental choice through loosening restrictions on charter schools and school choice. Employment opportunities can be created and job creation incentivized through the elimination of onerous regulations and taxes, as well as the removal of work barriers such as excessive occupational licensing.

Promotion of education, employment and family formation will help bring about prosperity for all Chicagoans but is especially important to minority families.

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