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Wisconsin Poverty Report: Progress Against Poverty Stalls in 2016

Although overall employment expanded in Wisconsin during the period of this report, poverty as measured by the Wisconsin Poverty Measure (WPM) increased. In fact, overall poverty rates in Wisconsin rose significantly in 2016, to 10.8 percent compared to 9.7 in 2015. Market income poverty (which reflects employment levels and is therefore a helpful gauge of economic health) also rose slightly, even as jobs expanded.

Both the WPM and the official poverty rate for families with children rose by significant amounts in 2016, as the child poverty rate for the WPM reached 12.0 percent, two points higher than in 2015. The WPM for children, which takes into account resources from tax credits and noncash benefits as well as earnings, remains almost 5 percentage points below the official poverty rate for children of 16.9 percent.

While the benefits from the safety net (especially food support and refundable tax credits) played a large role in poverty reduction, changes in participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (called FoodShare in Wisconsin) reduced these positive effects in 2016 compared to earlier years. Other trends that decreased resources over the past two years include rising childcare and other work-related expenses for families with children, and increasing medical out-of-pocket expenses, especially for the elderly.

Supplement to the Wisconsin Poverty Report 2016, added September 27, 2018

“Poverty, Incomes, Race and Ethnicity in Wisconsin and Milwaukee,” a supplement to the annual Wisconsin Poverty Report, was released in September 2018. The supplement examines poverty and income by race and ethnicity in the state overall and in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin’s most populous county, using the Wisconsin Poverty Measure. The study finds that the African American poverty rate is more than two-and-a-half times the overall Wisconsin poverty rate, and three to four times the white poverty rate. Hispanics and other races have poverty rates between those of blacks and whites, but these rates are still more than twice the rates of poverty among whites.


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