Wisconsin's poverty rate is holding steady and fewer people in the state are considered "poor" compared to the nation as a whole. Still, income disparity between the very poorest residents and the very richest is growing.
The U. S. Census Bureau reports 726,000 people in Wisconsin live at or beneath the poverty line, $22,000 for a family of four. Nearly 250,000 Wisconsin children are being raised in poverty.
Tamarine Cornelius is a research analyst for the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. She says the bright side of the numbers is that they are not going up. "On the other hand what we can't have this become is the new normal. We would hope that this far out from the economic crisis we would see a more robust recovery."
About 13 percent of state residents are considered "poor," that is lower than the national rate of 16 percent. The situation is direr in Milwaukee with a rate of 29 percent; it is considered one of the nation's poorest cities.
Cornelius says Wisconsin's poor now have less access to the Badgercare health program, and she says other safety nets were rolled back recently. "The biggest one I'd point to is the cut in the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is a tax credit that goes to lower income families with children who are working; and it helps them make a better life for their children and work their way out of poverty. In the last budget we took a significant hit to that tax credit and in the meanwhile Wisconsin reduced taxes on corporations and high income earners."
Wisconsin's top 1 percent of earners makes an average of $760,000 dollars. The poorest scrape by on less than $7,000.