Five Things to Know about Poverty in Wisconsin

Wednesday, October 1, 2014 at 1:54 PM by

Four years into the nation’s recovery from recession, too many Wisconsin families are worse off than they were before the economic collapse of 2008. New Census figures give us an updated picture of poverty in Wisconsin, and what we can do to address it.

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Wisconsin’s Slow Economic Recovery Leaves Many Behind

Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 3:22 PM by

Wisconsin’s gradual economic recovery still hasn’t substantially expanded economic opportunity for working people and families. Median incomes are still well below their pre-recession level, and our state’s elevated poverty levels have yet to begin declining.

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Wisconsin Women Twice as Likely as Men to Hold a Low-Wage Job

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 1:06 PM by

Women are vastly-overrepresented in jobs that pay low wages, in Wisconsin and across the country, according to a new report from the National Women’s Law Center.

Women’s educational attainment and work experience have increased dramatically in recent decades, but they are still far more likely than men to work at low-wage jobs, which are defined in the report as jobs that pay $10.10 an hour or less. In Wisconsin, 1 in 5 women work in low-wage jobs – adding up to nearly a quarter of a million workers. In contrast, only about 1 in 12 men in Wisconsin work in low wage jobs. Put another way, Wisconsin women are 2.3 times as likely as Wisconsin men to work for low wages.

Many women who work in low-wage jobs are parents, according to the report. Nearly one-third of women nationally who work at low-wage jobs are mothers, and nearly half of these mothers are single. Read more

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A Decade in the Wrong Direction: Wisconsin Student Poverty Rate Increases for the 10th Consecutive Year

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 2:52 PM by

A recent release from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction reports upsetting news concerning the state’s student poverty rate. The percentage of Wisconsin children representing low-income families has increased for yet another year.

In the 2013-14 school year 43.3 percent of students were eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches. Although this is only an increase of one-tenth of a percentage from the previous academic year, it is important to note that this pattern of seemingly small increases over the past decade has led to a near 14 percentage increase in the number of Wisconsin’s children who are from low-income families and thus, eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

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Students who are in families with an annual income that is less than 130% of the federal poverty level quality for free school meals, while students in families earning more than the 130% but less than 185% of the federal poverty level are eligible to receive reduced-price lunches. Read more

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The True Cost of Cheap Eats: Fast Food Workers in Wisconsin Strike

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 2:55 PM by

Fast food workers in Wisconsin are part of a national strike to rally for higher wages. Strikes took place in Milwaukee, Madison, Wausau, and other Wisconsin cities. Workers are advocating for a wage floor of $15 an hour.

President’s Budget Would Help Make Work Pay for 252,000 Childless Wisconsinites

Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 6:31 PM by

The FY 2015 budget proposal unveiled by the President this week addresses an issue that many politicians, researchers and commentators across the political spectrum have recently been talking about – providing assistance to low-income working adults who don’t have dependent children.  We were very pleased to see the part of his budget that would help that long-overlooked population by making more “childless” workers eligible for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and increasing the small credit for those who are already eligible.

The EITC encourages and rewards work, offsets federal payroll and income taxes, and boosts living standards. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) points out: “Next to Social Security, the EITC combined with the refundable portion of the CTC [child tax credit] constitutes the nation’s most powerful anti-poverty program.”  However, the federal EITC currently provides little or no benefit for adults who don’t have dependent children, and the Wisconsin EITC doesn’t apply to that population. Read more

Thousands of Wisconsinites Stand to Lose Unemployment Benefits Unless Congress Acts

Monday, December 2, 2013 at 11:50 AM by

Thousands of out-of-work Wisconsinites who have been searching for a job for a long time will lose their unemployment benefits at the end of the year, unless Congress acts to renew federal unemployment benefits. According to a new analysis from the Wisconsin Budget Project, 65,500 jobless workers in Wisconsin will lose access to federal benefits over the next six months, as shown in the chart below.

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Most states pay unemployment insurance benefits to jobless workers for a maximum of 26 weeks. In times of higher unemployment, Congress authorizes federally-funded benefits that provide assistance to people who reach the limit on their state-financed unemployment insurance. If the program that provides federal unemployment benefits is allowed to end, the maximum duration of unemployment benefits for jobless workers in Wisconsin will drop by more than half, from 54 weeks to 26 weeks.

The Budget Project’s analysis notes that 36 percent of jobless workers have been unemployed six months or more, which is far above the rate of long-term unemployment in previous recessions. Read more

Large Employment Gap for American Indians in Wisconsin

Friday, November 29, 2013 at 4:11 PM by

November was Native American Heritage Month, but for most of the month all we have heard about was the mascot issue and casinos.  The national stories about the “code-talkers” during World War II were a welcome exception to the dearth of positive stories about American Indians during the first half of the month, though those stories drew attention to just a very brief glimpse of Indian history and contributions.   

In addition to wishing that the media would shed more light on Native Americans’ contributions to American history and culture, I would like to hear more about the economic challenges facing American Indians, particularly those living in “Indian country.”  The following graphic, prepared by my colleague Tamarine Cornelius, shows that the unemployment rate for Native Americans in Wisconsin is almost twice the rate for non-Hispanic whites, and the poverty rate is more than two and a half times as high for Native Americans (25.3% vs. Read more

War on Poverty, or War on the Poor?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at 7:13 PM by

2014 is the 50th anniversary of the “war on poverty,” and we can expect a lot of debate and posturing then about that ambitious undertaking. Expect some legislators to use the opportunity to urge that policymakers renew their commitment to fight poverty and reinvigorate some of the elements of that agenda, while others will take that opportunity to declare the war on poverty a failure and a mistake.

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Wisconsin Families Still Reeling from Recession, New Analysis Shows

Thursday, October 24, 2013 at 1:24 PM by

Many Wisconsin residents are still feeling the effects of the recession, according to a new county-level analysis released today by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

The income of a typical Wisconsin household is still significantly below what it was in 2008, according to the analysis. In 2012, a typical Wisconsin household had $51,000 in income, compared to $55,600 in 2008. If household incomes had stayed at 2008 levels instead of declining dramatically during the recession, a typical Wisconsin household would have earned an additional $14,700 between 2008 and 2012, compared to what it actually earned.

The WCCF analysis includes 21 county fact sheets that outline how residents of each county are faring with regards to poverty, income, and health insurance coverage. The fact sheets include comparisons to the state and national level, and include recommendations for making investments that will help Wisconsin residents lift themselves out of poverty and get access to health insurance. Read more