Lasting effect of economy creates greater stress on local households

Editor’s note: This series is funded by the Marguarite Casey Foundation

Pam G. Dempsey/ — In 2002, food was a lot less expensive. So was water service and household energy. The past decade has brought many changes to the nation’s economy – changes that produced a profound and distressing impact on America’s families. A review of state and federal data shows that:

Food prices rose 29 percent over the past decade. It now takes nearly 44 percent more money to cover household energy costs
Water and sewer expenses grew nearly 60 percent.


Low-income households struggle to manage expenses

Editor’s note: This series is funded by the Marguerite Casey Foundation. By Pam G. Dempsey —  Robin Arbiter is a long-time resident of the Lierman Neighborhood, a low-income area near the corner of Washington and Lierman streets in Urbana. Despite her physical disabilities, she is an at-home activist and artist. To get by, Arbiter receives federal social security disability benefits. She also receives assistance for housing and food. Most of the residents are much like Arbiter – low-income or extremely low-income. The average income for a single-person household who is disabled in Arbiter’s neighborhood is about $700, she said. And they are not alone in their struggles.

Leodegario Olea discusses his family's economic hardship in his home in Champaign.

Economy leaves more Champaign families in need

Editor’s note: This series is funded by the Marguarite Casey Foundation. By Pam G. Dempsey —  Leodegario Olea and his wife, Rosa, sit inside the dining room of their six-bedroom house in west Champaign talking money. “To be honest, I have always had problems with bills even before a family. A home is very expensive, I’m not gonna lie. You’ve got to pay gas, lights, food,” Olea  said through  a translator.

Champaign County income levels by township

This map shows the percentage of residents in each of Champaign County’s 30 townships living below certain income levels. The figures for 2005 to 2009, taken from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, are estimates of the average number of residents living at each income level during the five-year period. The figures for 2000 are taken from the 2000 U.S. census. All income levels have been adjusted for inflation and are given in 2009 dollars. Residents living in extreme poverty earn less than 50 percent of the federal poverty level.