One in four children in St. Clair County lives in poverty, while Madison County has more than twice as many deaths from opioids, and there is a staggering difference in violent crime between the two counties.
Voices for Illinois Children has released its annual Illinois Kids Count report, tracking statistics that show how educational access, health care, living environment and other factors impact children growing up.
The report for 2017 doesn’t settle for statewide numbers, however; it compares county by county, and that’s where some major differences pop up between Madison and St. Clair counties in the metro-east.
On many statistics, both counties have similar results: child deaths numbered 32 in Madison County and 33 in St. Clair county, while each county had roughly the same number of children entering foster care. Unemployment was about 5.9 percent in Madison County and 6.1 percent in St. Clair County.
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But the biggest disparity was in violent crime. Madison County saw 483 violent crimes reported last year, while St. Clair County had more than triple the violent crimes with 1,664.
According to the U.S. census, the two counties have roughly the same population, with Madison County at 265,759 and St. Clair County at 262,759, estimated as of July 2016.
1,664Number of violent crimes reported last year in St. Clair County
483 Number of violent crimes reported last year in Madison County
Here are some other comparisons:
▪ St. Clair County has about 1,714 people per general practice physician, while Madison County’s ratio was about 2,004 people per doctor.
▪ Madison County also has nearly double the rate of opioid overdose deaths, with 51 deaths compared with St. Clair County’s 26, according to the report.
▪ Both counties have a higher rate of “food insecurity,” defined as families who were unsure whether there would be sufficient food for meals. While the statewide rate is 11.7 percent, Madison County’s rate is 12.7 percent and St. Clair County is 17.2 percent.
▪ In St. Clair County, 26 percent of children live in poverty, compared with 18 percent in Madison County and 19 percent statewide.
Voices for Illinois Children leaders place the blame for wide disparities on “system inequities in access” to early childhood education and public funding for K-12 education, pointing to wide ranges in educational data. The report stated that large gaps in achievement and attainment disproportionally impact low-income and minority children in communities that lack funding for education.
Test scores in the schools spanned a huge range in each metro-east county: from 20 percent to 73 percent of elementary children who were not low-income meeting or exceeding state standards in Madison County, and 4 to 63 percent in St. Clair County. The high school graduation rate in each county was roughly the same span, ranging from 68 to 97 or 100 percent in each county.
“The data … clearly proves that to build a future for Illinois where every child is a high achiever, we must reduce systemic inequities and increase support for the students who need it the most,” said Tasha Green Cruzat, president of Voices for Illinois Children. “It’s time for leaders across Illinois to fulfill their promise to all our children by providing adequate revenue for quality and competitive programming. We must close the achievement gap and give children in every community the tools they need to reach their full potential.”
Voices for Illinois Children calls for increasing investments in early childhood education, examining inequities in education, and focusing on support services so that children have access to food, after-school programming and mental and health services.