According to a recently published University of Wisconsin Applied Population Laboratory report, the state’s poverty level has worsened significantly in the last several years despite economic growth.
The lab’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey data collected between 2005-09 and 2010-14 revealed poverty reached 13 percent — its highest level in 30 years — during the latter period, Malia Jones, assistant scientist at the Applied Population Laboratory, said.
In addition, poverty increased appreciably in 31 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties and Wisconsin’s total population of impoverished persons increased by more than 100,000 people during the latter period according to a UW statement.
Jones said the lab was able to glean some insight by simply comparing poverty averages over the two aforementioned five-year periods.
“We are really just looking at what the data tells us in this report,” Jones said. “Part of APL’s mission is to do outreach and education, so we did this analysis and put it into a format we hope the public can understand.”
Jones said APL aims to make Wisconsinites more informed on poverty through the publication of this analysis. She said the recent census data is particularly novel and interesting because for the first time, two time periods included in the survey don’t overlap.
“This year’s survey was interesting from a nerdy statistics perspective because it’s the first time that there were two periods that didn’t overlap,” Jones said. “For the first time we have two totally separate measures of what’s going on from the American Community Survey.”
Jones said the lab found that people of color, people with lower levels of education and the unemployed have a higher rate of poverty both in the state of Wisconsin and nationally.
The curious thing about the recent data is that poverty seems to have increased in spite of a generally improving economy, she said.
Other researchers have attributed the phenomenon to stagnant median wages in the face of overall economic improvement, Jones said. The main takeaway of the analysis is that economic growth does not seem to be benefiting the poor, she said.
“People at the bottom of the economic spectrum are not benefiting from the improving economy, and that’s reflected in these data,” Jones said.