Now, here's part 2 of how far suburban Milwaukee is out of step with the rest of Wisconsin.
I was inspired to look into this when the Brookings Institute sent out a report on the increasing amount of poverty being seen in suburban America. The Journal-Sentinel covered the release with a decent article, and included Milwaukee area data as part of it. It may surprise some that over 47,000 people in Milwaukee's suburbs live in poverty (especially Sykesists who think that poverty and a lack of opportunity are for those "other people in the messed-up city"), but those rates are still dwarfed the City of Milwaukee's rates, where nearly 1 in 4 deal with poverty.
Now, Wisconsin does have low poverty rates in general, in no small part due to its progressive tradition of strong public education, high access to health care, and general respect for quality of life. In 2008, the U.S. Census estimated Wisconsin's poverty rate at 10.7%
Now let's take a look at that 10.7% rate and compare it to the JS story that gave the rates of poverty in Scott Walker Country.
suburban Milwaukee County: 6.5% (61% of state rate)
Washington County: 4.3% (40% of state rate)
Waukesha County: 3.9% (36% of state rate)
Ozaukee County: 3.6% (34% of state rate)
But that can't be much differnt than rich, latte-sipping Madison, as well as the stats for the equally wacky Dane County.
Dane County 10.9% (101.9% of state rate)
Madison 17.3% (162% of state rate)
So while Madison is significantly above the state rate at 62% higher, it's still not much different than having poverty rates 60-66% below the state average, like what you see in Wauzaukington County. And Madison's rates are skewed higher by the disproportionate amount of students that live there. Since their incomes are lower, it runs the poverty rate higher than what the standards of living would indicate.
In fact, if you look at the Wisconsin city rates of poverty , Wauzaukington County communities stand out even more for being unusual. Out of the largest communities in Wisconsin, the ones with the 6 lowest poverty levels are in Wauzaukington County.
Menomonee Falls 2.4%
New Berlin 2.5%
Of course, when you charge an admission fee to get into these towns in the form of specialized zoning and overpriced homes, it's not surprising that you can keep the poor people out.
One more stat to go along these lines. Check out what the median (half above, half below) household made in income in 2008 for these towns, then compare it to the crazies on the Isthmus, as well as the state's largest city.
STATE OF WISCONSIN MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME $52,094
Madison $53,516 (2.7% above the state median)
Dane County $61,441 (17.9% above the state median)
Washington County $63,332 (21.6% above the state median)
Ozaukee County $69,376 (33.2% above the state median)
Waukesha County $75,372 (44.7%! above the state median)
So to review, the City of Madison is far from outside of reality, and in fact has a mixture of poverty and income that comes closest to what is seen in the rest of Wisconsin. Wauzaukington County is every bit out of step when it comes to income as the City of Milwaukee...and the City of Milwaukee has that lower level in no small part to Wauzaukington County's policies and flight from reality.
What becomes laughable (well, would be laughable if radio stations and political discourse weren't overrun by these folks) is that it's the WAUZAUKINGTON COUNTY folks who dare to run their mouths with all the answers about what ails low-income folks in Wisconsin. Like they have any clue how people in low-income communities deal with life on a day-to-day basis. But somehow, that little tidbit doesn't keep them from talking about it. Some Madison people are certainly Pollyannish about the world (which pisses me off probably more than the angry-man radio listeners, because it keeps Madison from acting like the large city it now is), but I can bet at least a few of them have actually seen poverty and maybe have studied some of the research about how to help people out of it. You think a Wauzaukingtonian knows about these studies or poverty's reality, or that they even care? Heck, poor people make them "uncomfortable", and so they try not to deal with it, or denigrate these others, to make their barely above-average lives seem accomplished.
Fortunately, lots of people like me that grew up in the burbs got older, went to college, learned from others, perhaps worked with and taught others less fortunate than us, and realized that we were pretty fortunate to have had the supportive and relatively affluent upbringing we had. Who I feel bad for (well, sorta) are the people who spend their whole lives thinking Wauzaukington County is the normal, and that others are the ones who don't get it. No wonder these people hold such absurd political views, because they've never stepped outside of their comfortable little bubble where everything's taken care of for them. It's up to us to puncture that bubble, because we've seen how suburban "ownership society" works in the real world, and it's a disaster.
So Madtown, hold your head up high, and keep telling Sykes-World about reality's liberal bias. Because it's likely that a Madisonian like you lives your life more in line with the average Wisconsinite than the suburb boys that get all the air time representing "the Silent Majority".