Census: Income and Poverty Remain Flat, but Insurance Coverage Improves Modestly
New Data Show Many Wisconsinites Haven’t Benefited Yet from the Slow Economic Recovery
Two years into the nation’s slow recovery from the Great Recession, Wisconsin’s working families are finally beginning to experience some signs of an improving economy. But the new Census Bureau figures released today (from the American Community Survey) reveal that the gradual economic gains have not been evenly distributed and have yet to benefit many of Wisconsin’s most vulnerable households. For example:
- Median household income was $50,395 last year, almost 8% below the 2007 level ($54,737).
- Median income for Black households in the state was just $24,399 in 2011, less than half the $52,444 earned by White households.
- Wisconsin’s child poverty rate was 18.2% in 2011, which represents an improvement from 19.1% in 2010, yet that difference was not statistically significant, and the rate remains far above the 13.4% level in 2008.
- The Black child poverty rate (49% in 2011) was nearly four times the rate for White children in Wisconsin.
Although much of the new data was essentially flat or slightly improved since 2010, WCCF’s executive director, Ken Taylor, warned against complacency:
“We shouldn’t resign ourselves to the fact that nearly a quarter of a million Wisconsin children are living in poverty. These figures underscore the need for more family-supporting jobs in the private sector as well as ongoing public investments that help lift lower-income families above the poverty line.”
One of the positive changes in the new data is that there were roughly 20,000 fewer uninsured Wisconsinites last year, as the percentage of state residents lacking health insurance fell to 9.0%, from 9.4% in 2010. Today’s WCCF blog post takes a closer look at the health insurance trends, including the significant improvement in coverage of young adults resulting in large part from the federal health care reform law.
The new ACS figures are based on a sample that is 30 times the size of the Current Population Survey, which released data last week. Because it is so much larger, the ACS also provides data for Wisconsin’s 23 largest counties, and you can find some of the data for all 23 counties in two tables in today’s WCCF press release.
WCCF recommends these measures in response to lingering high poverty rates and the continued erosion of employer-sponsored health insurance:
- Implement the measures in the Affordable Care Act that would begin in 2014 to substantially reduce the number of uninsured Wisconsinites.
- Maintain funding for safety net programs such as food stamps and federal unemployment benefits that help lift families out of poverty AND pump money into the economy during economic downturns.
- Continue the improvements in the federal child tax credit and Earned Income Tax Credit that are set to expire at the end of 2012.
- Give businesses access to a well-trained workforce by providing schools and colleges the resources they need to prepare students for employment. And provide students with the financial aid they need in order to succeed in their educational efforts.