Wisconsin Poverty Rate Reaches Highest Level In 30 Years

Number Of Wisconsinites Living In Poverty Increased By 22 Percent Between 2010 To 2014

Howard Kang (CC-BY-SA)

Poverty is on the rise in Wisconsin, according to a new analysis from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Applied Population Laboratory.

In 2014, the most recent data in the study, the poverty rate reached 13 percent, the highest since 1984. The rate increased 20 percent in just five years between 2010 and 2014.

Malia Jones, a social epidemiologist at the UW laboratory, said wage inequality is a likely driving force causing poverty rates to go up.

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“Even though we’re seeing the economy expand overall, we are not seeing big improvements in the lower end,” she said.

While 13 percent of state residents live in poverty, Wisconsin’s child poverty rate grew to 18 percent. Jones said food and housing assistance are important indicators for youth living below the poverty line.

“Kids who live in poverty, having that exposure early in life, it can produce changes in brain development and behavior,” she said.

The data showed strong racial disparities as well. While the poverty rate for whites was 11 percent, the rate for blacks was 39 percent and 28 percent for Latinos.

“In Wisconsin, the gap between blacks and whites in terms of poverty rates is the 49th worse in the nation,” Jones said.

Jones said solving Wisconsin’s poverty problem will take serious economic growth especially on the lower end of the wage spectrum.

The researchers compared to U.S. Census data to compare five-year periods of 2005 to 2009 to 2010 to 2014. About 738,000 Wisconsinites were living in poverty in 2014 compared to 605,000 in the previous five-year period. None of the state’s 72 counties saw a significant decrease in poverty.

Correction: An earlier version of this story included a quote from Malia Jones that said that New Hampshire is the only state with a larger poverty rate gap between black people and white people. That information was incorrect; Maine is actually the only state with a larger gap.