Illinois has a storied history, a varied culture, and a thriving economy. Nevertheless, not all areas in the state share the same level of prosperity and quality of life.
Certain cities in Illinois confront significant difficulties, including issues like poverty, joblessness, crime, and limited educational opportunities. Out of the 91 places in Illinois with accessible data and populations of at least 25,000, one city stands out as the most economically disadvantaged: East St. Louis
The Poverty Rate in East St. Louis
In 2019, the U.S. Census Bureau reported a poverty rate of 29.3% in East St. Louis, indicating that nearly one out of every three residents lived below the poverty line.
The poverty line is the minimum income required to cover basic essentials like food, clothing, housing, and healthcare. For a family of four in 2019, this threshold was approximately $26,000 per year.
Compared to the state average of 11.4%, East St. Louis has a poverty rate more than double. Additionally, it surpasses the national average of 9.2% by more than triple. The city also holds the highest child poverty rate in the state, with 36.1% of children under 18 living in poverty.
The Median Household Income in East St. Louis
Another way to gauge economic hardship is by looking at the median household income, which is the income level that separates the population into two equal halves, with half earning more and half earning less.
In 2019, the median household income in East St. Louis was $26,011. This amount is less than half of the median income for the entire state of Illinois, which stood at $68,428, and also falls short of the national median income of $65,712.
When compared to the 91 places in Illinois with available data and populations of at least 25,000, East St. Louis has the second lowest median household income. It’s only slightly higher than Riverdale, which had a median household income of $24,009 in 2019.
The Unemployment Rate in East St. Louis
A contributing factor to poverty is the limited availability of jobs. In 2019, the unemployment rate in East St. Louis was 12.8%, which is more than twice the state rate of 5.1% and the national rate of 4.0%.
Among the 91 places in Illinois with available data and populations of at least 25,000, East St. Louis has the 14th highest unemployment rate.
The unemployment rate indicates the percentage of people in the workforce actively seeking employment but unable to find it. The workforce includes individuals who are employed or actively seeking work, but not those who are retired, students, homemakers, or discouraged workers.
Discouraged workers are individuals who have stopped looking for work because they believe there are no available job opportunities for them.
The Challenges and Opportunities for East St. Louis
East St. Louis has encountered numerous challenges over the years, including deindustrialization, racial segregation, urban decay, political corruption, and environmental pollution. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated economic and health issues for many residents.
Nevertheless, East St. Louis possesses a rich history, a resilient community, and the potential for growth.
The city boasts cultural and historical landmarks like the Gateway Arch National Park, the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park, the Katherine Dunham Museum, and the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center.
Furthermore, its strategic location along the Mississippi River provides opportunities for transportation, trade, and tourism.
For East St. Louis to address its difficulties and make the most of its potential, it requires increased investment, development, and backing from a range of contributors, including the federal, state, and local governments, as well as the private sector, nonprofit organizations, and the community.
By collaborating, these stakeholders can contribute to building a brighter, secure, and healthier future for East St. Louis and its inhabitants.