Poverty rates in Wisconsin

With a poverty rate of 10.9%, Wisconsin has the 33rd highest poverty rate in the United States. This is just slightly better than the poverty rate of Kansas, Indiana, and Nevada, and just slightly higher than the poverty rate of North Dakota.

Poverty Rates in Wisconsin

Where the Worst Poverty in Wisconsin Occurs

The worst poverty in Wisconsin exists in both highly populated major cities and on rural Native American reservations (see map below article).

The counties of Wisconsin with critical poverty rates (at least 50% above the state average) are the following:

Menominee (22.8%)
Milwaukee (20.2%)

Menominee County shares almost the exact same borders as the Menominee Indian Reservation. Because of this, over 80% of the residents of Menominee County are Native American.

Critical poverty rates also occur in the following major cities (25,000 people or more):

La Crosse (17.2%)
Milwaukee (21.3%)

Why the Worst Poverty in Wisconsin Exists

Since critical poverty rates are found in both urban areas and much more rural Native American reservations, it is important to cover the reasons why both of these areas can be prone to poverty.

Some of the problems that come with an isolated rural life include slow emergency response, unpaved or neglected roads, limited access to utilities, vulnerability to the elements, and a lack of access to services like package or mail delivery and bussing.
When these already challenging obstacles of rural life are combined with the problem of isolation associated with Native American reservations, the isolation now multiplies to even greater degrees.

In urban areas, the problems can be quite different.

Many people do not realize that most people living in poverty do work. However, the jobs they work will usually offer bad hours for low wages. These types of jobs typically can’t pay for high costs of living in major cities.

With no chance to save up assets, the poor in these areas are also much more vulnerable to falling into poverty if anything at all goes wrong.

Some of the things that can push a low-wage working family into poverty are health crises, divorce with children involved, taking care of elderly parents, and an automobile accident.

Many of these poverty problems could be solved through urban planning techniques and policies, which are the focus of this blog.

All of this aside, it is important to keep in mind that the reasons for poverty are as unique as the individuals who live through it. Though finding trends in a specific area is important, no generalization can account for everyone.

What is Being Done about Poverty in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP) is an excellent organization working to end poverty in Wisconsin.

To do this, WISCAP decided that it would strengthen Wisconsin’s low-income households by promoting economic self-sufficiency by working together with people and other local organizations on issues of policy, resource mobilization, training & development, and advocacy.

Another huge help to people living in poverty in more urban areas is the increase in the minimum wage by national legislators. A higher minimum wage will make it easier for the working poor to sustain themselves and their families without federal assistance.

Other national organizations working to lower the amount of poverty, especially in urban areas, include Second Harvest, United Way, Red Cross, and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Paul Linus