New Census Bureau Poverty Data Shows Economic Recovery Remains Slow for Vulnerable Families

Thursday, September 19, 2013 at 1:04 PM by

Three years into the nation’s recovery from recession, Wisconsin’s working families remain considerably worse off than they were before the economic collapse of 2008. New data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that economic improvement remains elusive for the vulnerable households, and it could be several more years before the state’s median income and poverty rates return to their pre-recession levels.

According to data from the American Community Survey (ACS), nearly a quarter of a million (235,434) Wisconsin children were living below the poverty line last year. Wisconsin’s child poverty rate was 18.2% in 2012, no change from the previous year, and still well above the 13.4% rate in 2008.

Wisconsin’s overall poverty rate also remained stable last year, after climbing significantly in the previous two years. The state’s poverty rate in 2012 was 13.2%, considerably higher than its pre-recession 2008 rate of 10.8%.

Household income fell slightly in Wisconsin, following steep declines in recent years. Median household income among state residents was $51,059 in 2012, $389 below the previous year, and almost $5,000 (9 percent) below the $56,010 figure in 2007.

Wisconsin continues to experience extreme economic disparities based on race. The Black child poverty rate (50.2% in 2012) was more than four times the rate for White non-Hispanic children, as shown in the chart below. Median household income for Blacks in 2012 was less than half of that for whites.


In the City of Milwaukee, nearly a third of residents lived in poverty, including four out of 10 children, according to this article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said that poverty in southeastern Wisconsin is a regional problem that requires a regional solution, noting: “”The problem is we have focused and concentrated the vast majority of low-income people in the city of Milwaukee and then we say it’s a Milwaukee problem.”

The press release from Wisconsin Council on Children and Families has more information on poverty, income, and health insurance status in Wisconsin, including figures for some Wisconsin counties.

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