Social IMPACT Research Center Publications

The Social IMPACT Research Center has an extensive portfolio of needs assessment and evaluation research on issues facing poor and low-income populations. Our user-friendly work equips nonprofits, foundations, and governments to advance real-world solutions to poverty.
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The Gender Disadvantage: Why Inequity Persists

March 13, 2019

Poverty does not treat everyone equally. Women, children, gender minorities, and people of color are often the hardest hit. And while women in poverty experience the same issues that all people in poverty experience—income inequality, unemployment, poor health, violence, trauma, and more—the odds are often uniquely stacked against them in gendered ways.There are 6.5 million women. and an estimated 50,000 trans people living in Illinois. They are a driving force in our economy and care for our children, sick, and elderly, and yet continue to face discrimination and inequitable opportunities. This year's annual report on poverty in Illinois shows how gender, gender identity, and gender norms shape experiences of poverty for women and gender minorities—and how women who have other marginalized identities experience even more inequity. If we want to dramatically reduce poverty, improving the well-being of women— particularly women of color—would deliver the biggest return.

Asset Building & Financial Security; Poverty

Building Brighter Futures: Children's Savings Accounts in Illinois

August 22, 2017

In 2009, the Illinois General Assembly created a bipartisan task force to explore a CSA program in the state. The task force recommended that a savings account should be opened automatically at birth for every child born in Illinois, using the Bright Start Direct College Savings Program as the savings vehicle.This report examines what it will take to make these recommendations a reality. To better understand the Bright Start program and how to make it an effective savings tool for all families, we look at how Illinoisans are currently using Bright Start, and explore the challenges low-income families and families of color face in using Bright Start to save for college. We also examine how a CSA program could impact the racial wealth gap in Illinois. Finally, we make policy recommendations for the design and implementation of a CSA program to help Illinois families save for higher education.

Asset Building & Financial Security; Education; Poverty

Data Matters: Who'd Get the Raise to $10 in Illinois?

October 6, 2014

Elections are coming in November, and one hot election issues is raising the minimum wage. Illinois voters will see a ballot initiative that asks about increasing the minimum wage from Illinois's current $8.25 an hour to $10 an hour. We got to wondering, if Illinois raised the minimum wage to $10 an hour starting January 1, 2015, who exactly would get a raise? We turned to the Economic Policy Institute for help crunching the numbers, and this Data Matters explores what we learned about who would become a "raised worker."

Asset Building & Financial Security; Employment; Poverty

Michigan Earn and Learn: An Outcome & Implementation Evaluation of a Transitional Job and Training Program

April 30, 2014

While the Great Recession introduced unemployment and underemployment to the masses, its significant negative trends aggravated already declining rates of employment in Michigan, particularly among less-educated, young, male, and minority individuals, who were then also hit hardest by the recession. As the nation began to slowly recover after the recession, Michigan continued struggling to find an economic foothold.The State of Michigan, along with private funders, responded with the Michigan Earn and Learn program, with the goal of creating opportunities for people facing barriers to employment to pursue education and occupational training that could help them get ahead. This evaluation report of the Michigan Earn and Learn transitional jobs program was commissioned by The Joyce Foundation on behalf of the State of Michigan.

Asset Building & Financial Security; Education; Employment; Safety Net & Human Services

Trapped by Credit: Racial Disparities in Financial Well-Being and Opportunity in Illinois

February 24, 2014

This report examines an important aspect of economic racial disparity -- disparity in credit scores. The relationship between credit scores and minority presence illustrates a clear racial disparity in credit in Illinois. Though many related factors help to explain some variability in credit scores, even when controlling for them, racial differences in credit persist.Having a credit score is important for gaining access to things like education, better jobs, homeownership -- the very things that feed financial and social opportunity. While credit disparities exist in large measure due to the same historic policies that have limited access to broader financial opportunities for minorities, credit scores are particularly important to consider because they also impact individuals' future financial opportunities.In effect, credit scores can create a trap, one that minorities are more likely to fall into, thereby feeding the continued growth of income and wealth disparities.

Asset Building & Financial Security; Education; Housing & Homelessness

The Game of Credit: A High Stakes Game That Perpetuates the Racial Wealth Gap

February 24, 2014

Everyone deserves the opportunity to build a financially secure future for themselves and their families. Access to equal opportunities is the cornerstone of America's core values and is also a necessity to growing a healthy economy. Unfortunately, the reality is a far shot from that piece of the American dream. Income and wealth inequality are at levels that we have not seen since the Great Depression. The Great Recession further expanded an already growing racial wealth gap. Many families have little hope of upward mobility. In fact, day-to-day life is more expensive for those struggling to make ends meet due to unequal access to the tools we all need to build financially secure futures. This includes a basic checking & savings account, a retirement savings account, a college savings account, home and student loans with low interest rates, and a solid credit score that gives you access to these important loans. Many households of color have been denied access to these crucial financial tools needed to build credit and put them on a path to financial health. As this report will show, this inequity has led to a stark racial disparity in credit scores as well as related indicators, such as education level, student loan debt, employment, income, homeownership, and home loan debt. Fortunately, there are programs and policies that can help close the gap and therefore strengthen the economy, which are also outlined in this report.

Asset Building & Financial Security; Education; Employment; Housing & Homelessness; Poverty

Quick Resource Guide to Help Illinois Families with Low-incomes Reach Self-sufficiency

November 1, 2009

Quick Resource Guide to help Illinois families with low-incomes reach self-sufficiency.

Asset Building & Financial Security; Poverty

The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Illinois: Methodology Appendix

September 1, 2009

This appendix explains the methodology, assumptions, and sources used to calculate the Illinois Self-Sufficiency Standard. It begins with a discussion of how the Standard differs from the official Federal Poverty Level, followed by the methodology and assumptions of how each cost is calculated in the Standard, ending with a list of data sources used to calculate the Standard in Illinois.

Asset Building & Financial Security; Poverty

Getting by Getting Ahead: The 2009 Illinois Self-Sufficiency Standard

September 1, 2009

This report utilizes the 2009 Illinois Self-Sufficiency Standard to help answer these questions. The Self-Sufficiency Standard calculates a very basic, modest budget that helps us better understand the cost of living in each Illinois county for a variety of different family types -- from single adults all the way up to two adults with children of various ages and dependent adults in the household. It illustrates how much income families need to make ends meet, with no public or private assistance.

Asset Building & Financial Security; Poverty

The Impact of Work Supports: The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Illinois 2009

September 1, 2009

This document models the impact that work supports have on family income and expenses in two different ways. Both model a family with one parent and two children (a preschooler and a schoolage child) on the south side of Chicago (Cook County) Illinois. The document begins with a description of the work supports and child supports that are modeled, followed by an explanation of how and why the taxes and tax credits are treated differently in this document than in the Self-Sufficiency Standard itself. The first modeling section of this document shows the impact of work supports on monthly costs. The second modeling section in this document shows the impact of work supports on wage adequacy.

Asset Building & Financial Security; Poverty; Safety Net & Human Services

Illinois Youth - Ready for Life? Illinois Youth Share their Perspective on Challenges and Opportunities as They Make the Transition from Childhood to Adulthood

July 30, 2007

Today's youth are tomorrow's leaders and decision makers. They are the future teachers, business owners, parents, and community members of our state. As youth make the important and often difficult transition from childhood to adulthood, families, communities, and the state provide critical opportunities and supports. Investments made in youth today through programs, services, and other opportunities are a wise contribution to Illinois' collective future. In order to ensure that all young people in Illinois are ready for life, Illinois policymakers, parents, and other adult leaders must work intentionally and collaboratively to devise a comprehensive youth development strategy.

Asset Building & Financial Security; Education; Employment; Poverty

Spotlight on Assets: The Future of Economic Security for all Illinoisans

March 21, 2006

Wages and household income are important indicators used to define and assess poverty, but they are only part of the picture of an individual or a family's economic stability or vulnerability. In most cases, it is a person's assets -- a home, a savings account, a retirement account, or even a college degree -- that provide the foundation for solid economic standing. **The challenge facing Illinois and our nation as a whole is to expand existing asset-building opportunities to benefit all people, particularly those most in need. Given the current realities of poverty in Illinois, there is an ongoing need for government involvement in promoting asset-building strategies.

Asset Building & Financial Security; Poverty

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