Wisconsin Poverty Report shows anti-poverty programs worked

May 5, 2011

The third Wisconsin Poverty Report released today (Wednesday, May 4), shows that expanded tax credits and food assistance programs helped shield the state's poorest residents from the worst effects of the recession.

Prepared by researchers at the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) at the , the report takes a broader measure of the needs and resources of Wisconsin's poor than the official poverty measure to better determine the impact of state and federal policies.

Under the Wisconsin Poverty Measure, 11.5 percent of the state's was poor in 2009 — nearly identical to the 2008 level. Meanwhile, the official poverty rate for Wisconsin jumped from 10.2 percent to 12.4 percent. The contrast is even sharper for child poverty, which jumped nearly four percentage points under the official measure between 2008 and 2009 but showed no significant change under the Wisconsin measure.

These differences are striking considering the Wisconsin measure has a higher poverty threshold than the official line. The contrast between the rates demonstrates that anti-poverty programs and policies are largely working in the state.

Specifically, adjusting for the expanded tax credits under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, researchers find a 1.9 percent reduction in the poverty rate; counting food assistance received by families under the state's FoodShare program results in a 1.2 percent reduction in the poverty rate. Most striking, the refundable taxes and tax credits counted in the Wisconsin measure but not in the official measure indicate a 5.0 percentage point reduction in child poverty in 2009.

The report compares poverty in county and multicounty regions across Wisconsin. Milwaukee County remained the poorest in the state, with poverty up from 18.8 percent in 2008 to 19.6 percent in 2009 under the Wisconsin measure. Meanwhile, the report showed four county areas of the state with rates under 6 percent: Columbia/Sauk/Dodge counties (5.4 percent), Waukesha County (5.6 percent), Ozaukee/Washington counties (5.6 percent) and Marathon County (5.7 percent). Additional detail on county-specific rates is available at www.irp.wisc.edu.

The report was prepared by IRP Director Timothy Smeeding, Julia Isaacs of the Brookings Institution, IRP researcher Joanna Young Marks and Katherine Thornton, a programmer analyst at IRP. The team is at the forefront of a growing number of groups across the country developing state and local poverty measures.

In Wisconsin, this measure provides a more detailed view of poverty and shows how well public programs such as FoodShare, refundable tax credits, work-related expenses and health care protection under BadgerCare are helping meet the basic needs of Wisconsin families.

By analyzing both the policies in place to support families and the specific costs of getting by in the state, the Wisconsin measure tells how families are faring in tough economic times and quantifies the difference public policies make in the lives of those in need.

The IRP Wisconsin Poverty Measure is being used as a model for other states as they develop their own local- and state-specific poverty measures, and the IRP is serving as a resource for these efforts. The basic results of the project can be found in IRP's "Wisconsin Report: Were Antipoverty Policies Effective in 2009?," available at http://www.irp.wisc.edu along with more detailed technical reports.

Explore further: Washington state has fourth lowest child poverty rate in U.S.

Related Stories

One in Five American Families Is

August 16, 2010

Twenty-one percent of American households with children are “food insecure” - a situation that adversely affects children most - causing poor cognitive development, socio-emotional and health outcomes - according to a ...

Nearly half of all elderly Americans will experience poverty

December 9, 2010

Nearly half of all Americans between the ages of 60 and 90 will encounter at least one year of poverty or near poverty, says a recent study by Mark R. Rank, PhD, the Herbert S. Hadley Professor of Social Work at the Brown ...

Recommended for you

Who you gonna trust? How power affects our faith in others

October 6, 2015

One of the ongoing themes of the current presidential campaign is that Americans are becoming increasingly distrustful of those who walk the corridors of power – Exhibit A being the Republican presidential primary, in which ...

Ancient genome from Africa sequenced for the first time

October 8, 2015

The first ancient human genome from Africa to be sequenced has revealed that a wave of migration back into Africa from Western Eurasia around 3,000 years ago was up to twice as significant as previously thought, and affected ...

The hand and foot of Homo naledi

October 6, 2015

The second set of papers related to the remarkable discovery of Homo naledi, a new species of human relative, have been published in scientific journal, Nature Communications, on Tuesday, 6 October 2015.

From a very old skeleton, new insights on ancient migrations

October 9, 2015

Three years ago, a group of researchers found a cave in Ethiopia with a secret: it held the 4,500-year-old remains of a man, with his head resting on a rock pillow, his hands folded under his face, and stone flake tools surrounding ...

Mexican site yields new details of sacrifice of Spaniards

October 9, 2015

It was one of the worst defeats in one of history's most dramatic conquests: Only a year after Hernan Cortes landed in Mexico, hundreds of people in a Spanish-led convey were captured, sacrificed and apparently eaten.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.