Higher than average corruption keeps 79,000 more Illinoisans in poverty

May 17, 2021

Decades of corruption in Illinois has left thousands of Illinoisans in poverty.


CONTACT: Melanie Krakauer (312) 607-4977

Higher than average corruption keeps 79,000 more Illinoisans in poverty
CHICAGO (May 17, 2021) – Decades of corruption in Illinois has left thousands of Illinoisans in poverty.

Analysis by the Illinois Policy Institute shows states with higher public corruption convictions have higher poverty rates. An estimated 79,000 fewer Illinoisans would be living in poverty if the state could reduce its corruption convictions to the national average.

That’s because corruption hurts economic growth by driving away new investment and reducing the effectiveness of public and private investment. Lower economic growth means disproportionately fewer new opportunities for the working poor. State lawmakers can help by passing ethics reforms.

Why Illinois sees higher poverty:

  • Since the 1980s, corruption convictions per person in Illinois were on average 41.4% higher than the rest of the country, according to the Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice
  • If Illinois’ corruption cases came down to the national average, Illinois would see a 5.6% reduction in poverty.
  • A 1 percentage point higher level of public corruption convictions per million residents is associated with a 0.5 percentage point higher poverty rate, according to analysis of data from 1981-2017.

How Illinois can reduce corruption:

  • Empower the legislative inspector general, a lawmaker watchdog, by allowing the position to open investigations, issue subpoenas and publish findings without first getting politician approval. Those reforms can be found in House Bill 2774.
  • Improve government transparency by providing more detailed financial disclosures from lawmakers. House Bill 3751 and Senate Bill 1597 would achieve that goal.
  • Require a two-year cooling off period before lawmakers can become lobbyists to the General Assembly after leaving office, as found in House Bill 3486.
  • Prohibit members of the General Assembly from working as lobbyists to executive agencies and local governments. House Bill 3664 would enact that change.
Orphe Divounguy, chief economist for the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute, offered the following statement:

“Illinois’ working poor are disproportionately hurt by a government that allows elected officials to use their positions to benefit the few at the expense of the many.

“If the state is serious about tackling poverty and inequality, it needs to first root out corruption. Fairness begins with meaningful ethics reform that change ‘business as usual’ behavior. Illinois lawmakers should be empowered to move on these ethics reform bills before legislative session concludes this month.”

To read more about poverty and corruption, visit illin.is/corruptioncosts.

For bookings or interviews, contact media@illinoispolicy.org or (312) 607-4977.