Taking a closer look at those Census Bureau numbers. Poverty was up for Wisconsin children by more than three percentage points last year. Jon Peacock is Research Director with the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. “To put that in perspective, that’s an additional 42,000 kids,” said Peacock. “Imagine filling Miller Park with kids, and you’ve got the increase in child poverty last year in Wisconsin.”
Milwaukee’s poverty rate in 2009 rose to 27 percent, making the city the fourth poorest in the nation. That’s a sobering number of kids, said Peacock. “Thirty-nine percent of kids, or almost two kids out of every five in the city of Milwaukee are in poverty now.” Another surprise from the Census Bureau numbers: increased levels of poverty in Madison and Dane County, which have weathered the recession fairly well. The figures “surprised me,” said Peacock. “We’re still studying the statistics to try to understand what went on, but there has been a significant increase in poverty within Dane County and the city.”
Peacock said rising poverty puts a strain on resources. “At the state level, at the county level, there’s a huge increase in demand for public services, for programs like BadgerCare Plus, for more people going back for higher education and training,” said Peacock. “Services across the board go up pretty dramatically at a time when state and local government have less money to spend.” Peacock said the findings from the Census confirm suspicions that the recession has really hammered families in Wisconsin, particularly in the state’s urban areas.