Poverty: Not Just a Milwaukee Problem
Poverty is a problem across the entire state of Wisconsin, not just in Milwaukee, new numbers on poverty and income show. In fact, if poverty were a city in Wisconsin, it would be the state’s largest city.
Nearly three-quarter of a million Wisconsinites lived in poverty in 2012, according to new American Community Survey figures that were released last week. About one out of four people in poverty in Wisconsin live in Milwaukee County.
The other half a million people in poverty live in every corner of the state. The numbers released last week include information for 23 larger, urban counties in Wisconsin, so we don’t yet have updated numbers for rural counties. But we can see from the numbers we do have so far that poverty remains far too high in some unexpected places in Wisconsin.
For example, would you have guessed that the county with the second-highest poverty rate among the large counties is…Portage County? The counties with the highest poverty rates are shown in the chart below. The statewide poverty rate is 13.2%.
The story is much the same in terms of child poverty: although Milwaukee County has the highest rate of child poverty, children all across the state are vulnerable to the harmful effects of living in poverty. In 2012, 235,000 Wisconsin children lived in poverty – a population greater than that of the City of Green Bay. About one out of three poor children in Wisconsin lived in Milwaukee County, but another 160,000 children lived in poverty in other places in the state. The counties with the highest child poverty rates in 2012 were:
- Milwaukee County, 32.4%;
- Rock County, 25.7%;
- Racine County, 20.9%;
- Walworth County, 20.1%; and
- Eau Claire County and Kenosha County, both at 18.6%.
You can see more poverty, income, and health insurance rates for Wisconsin counties here.
Milwaukee County’s high poverty and child poverty rates justify focusing a large part of our anti-poverty efforts on that county. But we shouldn’t forget that families in other parts of the state – sometimes in unexpected parts of the state – are also struggling to make ends meet.