Poverty in Wisconsin is at its highest level in 30 years, according to a trend analysis of U.S. Census data by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers.
The number of Wisconsin residents living in poverty averaged 13 percent across the post-recession time frame, the highest since 1984, according to the findings released Thursday by UW-Madison’s Applied Population Laboratory.
“The data tell us that poverty has been getting worse in Wisconsin,” said Malia Jones, an assistant scientist and social epidemiologist at the lab. “Poverty went up significantly, even during a time when the nation’s economy was improving.”
The analysis compared U.S. Census Bureau data from 2005-09 to numbers from 2010-14 and found that the number of state residents living in poverty hit 13 percent during the five years ending in 2014 – the highest rate since 1984.
As an epidemiologist, Jones looks at the issue through a public health lens. “People who are living in poverty are at really high risk for chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension, that end up costing the healthcare system a lot of money over time,” she said.
During the most recent five-year span, poverty increased significantly in 31 of 72 Wisconsin counties, including 11 of the 15 most populous counties. Estimates show that about 738,000 Wisconsin residents were living in poverty, compared to 605,000 in the previous five-year period.
The analysis showed 18.5 percent of children in Wisconsin, or about 239,000 statewide, were living in poverty – up from 14.6 percent in 2005-09. Only 10 states had faster rates of increase in child poverty than Wisconsin, according to the lab’s analysis.
In 1984, the nation’s stubborn unemployment rate stabilized in the wake of a double-dip recession. The analysis dovetails with another study from the Economic Innovation Group that identified pockets of the country faring worse as the economic recovery gains some traction. It found the gap between the richest and poorest American communities widening, and ranked Milwaukee the seventh most distressed city in America.