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wisconsin poverty map

Poverty hits highest level in 30 years

Poverty in Wisconsin hit its highest level in 30 years during the five-year period after the Great Recession.

The determination comes from an analysis by the Applied Population Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The lab’s data tells Malia Jones, an assistant scientist in social epidemiologist, that poverty has been getting worse in the state.

“Poverty went up significantly, even during a time when the nation’s economy was improving,” she says.

Jones compared U.S. Census Bureau data from 2005-09 to data from 2010-14. The census bureau says a person is living in poverty when the total income of a household is below the poverty threshold, which takes into account the size of the family, the number of children in the family and, in some cases, the age of the head of household.

Jones found the number of Wisconsin residents living in poverty hit 13 percent during the five years ending in 2014 — the highest rate since 1984.

For 2010-14, poverty increased significantly in 31 of 72 Wisconsin counties, including 11 of the 15 most populous counties.

The UW-M estimates show about 738,000 Wisconsin residents were living in poverty in 2010-14, compared with 605,000 in 2005-09.

The research also shows:

• Over 2010-2014, nearly one in five Wisconsin children, were living in poverty. That’s 239,000 children.

For 2005-09, about 14.6 percent of kids in the state were living in poverty.

The finding means an additional 50,000 children in Wisconsin are at risk for food insecurity, housing insecurity, poor educational outcomes and lifetime disease risk due to poverty.

• Although black people are more broadly affected by poverty than any other race/ethnic group in the state, the largest relative increase in poverty occurred among Latinos.

• The lab report shows Wisconsin ranks 49th out of 50 states on the gap between black and white poverty rates. In the state, 39 percent of blacks and 28 percent of Latinos are living in poverty. For whites, the rate is 11 percent.

• Poverty went up among both unemployed and employed adults in Wisconsin.

• Poverty increased among high school graduates with no college education from 8.9 percent to 11 percent; among those with some college from 6.6 percent to 8.9 percent; and among those with a bachelor’s degree or more from 3 percent to 3.6 percent.

National look at poverty

Consistent with the UW-M research, a national report from the Economic Innovation Group shows the gap between the nation’s richest and poorest communities widened in the “recovery years” after the Great Recession. In The Distressed Communities Index, EIC evaluated economic prosperity and distress by ZIP code, legislative districts, municipalities and states.

Some findings:

• 50.4 million Americans live in distressed ZIP codes. In the bottom 20 percent of ZIP codes that are the most distressed, more than half of adults are not working and the median income is two-thirds of the state level.

• The country’s most distressed ZIP codes are stuck in a deep recession. From 2010 to 2013, the average distressed ZIP code lost 6.7 percent of its jobs and saw 8.3 percent of its businesses close. At the same time, the average prosperous ZIP code saw booming job growth of 17.4 percent and business growth of 8.8 percent.

  • DCI Data for U.S. Zip Codes by State

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