University of Wisconsin–Madison
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Wisconsin Poverty Report: How the Safety Net Protected Families from Poverty in 2010

On April 25, 2012, IRP released the fourth annual Wisconsin Poverty Report: How the Safety Net Protected Families from Poverty in 2010. The report reveals good news for struggling families in Wisconsin that counters official statistics released in fall 2011. Temporary increases in safety net programs and tax credits for working families provided an effective buffer against poverty during the recession and its aftermath.

In 2010, the most recent year for which data are available, Wisconsin had a 13% official overall poverty rate. The Wisconsin Poverty Measure, which uses a more modern and complete accounting of resources and expenses, found a significantly lower poverty rate of 10.3% statewide.

The story for Wisconsin’s children in 2010 is even more dramatic, with official statistics finding an 18.6% child poverty rate and the Wisconsin Poverty Project study revealing a 10.8% child poverty rate, when child and earned income tax credits and increased food assistance are counted (the official measure, devised in the 1960s, counts only pre-tax cash income and so misses the effects of some important government programs that provide a safety net during economic downturns).

While the overall and child poverty rates were lower under the new measure than under the official measure, elderly poverty rates actually were higher under the new approach, from the official rate of 7.6% to the study rate of 9.8%. Researchers attribute the higher rate to seniors’ out-of-pocket medical costs that are counted under the new measure but left out of the official one.


Poverty Measurement, State & Local Measures, WI Administrative Data Core, Wisconsin Poverty Reports