Wisconsin is #2 in Black-White Child Poverty Gap

Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 2:41 PM by

Only one state had a bigger black-white child poverty gap in 2012 than Wisconsin, according to new figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

In 2012, just over half of black children in Wisconsin lived in poverty, compared to 10.9% of non-Hispanic white children, as shown in the chart below. That makes for a 39-percentage point gap between black and white child poverty rates in Wisconsin. Only North Dakota has a larger gap between the share of black children living in poverty compared to white children. Figures are from the American Community Survey, a product of the U.S. Census Bureau.



Wisconsin’s child poverty rate is lower than the national average – 18.2% in 2012, compared to 22.6% nationally – but our better-than-average child poverty rate hides deep disparities in the economic well-being of Wisconsin’s children. In terms of poverty for non-Hispanic white children, Wisconsin ranks a respectable 35th, meaning that only 15 states had a smaller share of children living in poverty. But for black child poverty, Wisconsin ranked 6th among 47 states, meaning that a whopping 41 states have a smaller share of black children living in poverty. (Three states with small numbers of black residents – Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho – do not have figures on black children living in poverty.)

Why is the black-white child poverty gap in Wisconsin among the largest in the country? For starters, wide disparities in economic wellbeing between blacks and whites appear to be a problem that Wisconsin shares with neighboring states. The map below shows the states with the largest percentage point gaps between black and white child poverty rates for 2012. In addition to North Dakota and Wisconsin, the other states with the largest racial child poverty gaps are South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Illinois, all of which are located in the Upper Midwest.


Some of the states with the largest gaps have been hit hard by deindustrialization and the corresponding decline in the number of manufacturing jobs that pay family-supporting wages. As an example of how the decline in high-paying manufacturing jobs and the rise of low-paying service jobs can widen the racial gap in earnings, a recent report from the Center on Wisconsin Strategy described the link between the loss of family-supporting wages, and higher rates of child poverty, racial disparities, and crime and incarceration in Milwaukee. You can read our blog post about that report here. (“Solving the Crisis of Job Quality in Milwaukee,” July 2013.)

Wisconsin’s child poverty rate, while alarmingly high compared to what it was before the recession, is still below the national average. But if you dig deeper, it’s clear that black children in Wisconsin face a very different set of economic circumstances than white children do. We need to tackle child poverty and make sure that all children have equality of opportunity in Wisconsin, regardless of their race.

For more information on poverty, child poverty, income, and health insurance in Wisconsin, see WCCF’s recent press release.

Tamarine Cornelius

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