Monday, December 20, 2010

Poverty rampant in Wisconsin! Or not...

I love the Journal-Sentinel's attempt at alarmism in today's paper. They shout in huge headlines about how POVERTY ROSE ALL OVER WISCONSIN IN THE 2000s! You mean the top of the tech bubble had fewer poor people than the pit of the Bush Depression? I am blown away by that correlation.

In addition to the poorly written headline (poverty did not "increase by 10%" in most Wisconsin counties, it "increased to over 10% " in most Wisconsin counties), the key stat should be to compare Wisconsin's increase to other states. If everyone's got more poverty, is it necessarily a reflection of Wisconsin if they're like everyone else?

Well, let's go to the numbers. You'll see that Wisconsin rose from 8.6% poverty in 2000-2001 to 10.4% in 2007-08, and 11.1% in the UW-Extension study. So that's an increase of 1.8% in the 08 study and 2.5% in 2009. Now go back to the state table, and you'll notice that Wisconsin's increase is well below the likes of Midwest counterparts Michigan (2.3%), Ohio (2.9%)Minnesota (3.1%), and the big "winner", Mitch Daniels' business-friendly paradise of Indiana (4.6%! Mich, my man!).

Nationwide, Wisconsin's increase is above the national average of 1.4%, so work needs to be done, but the U.S. average of 12.9% is well below Wisconsin's 10.4%, and you want some real fun, check out the poverty in those "low-tax" Confederate states. Yeegads!

One last point, note that the WOW Counties around Milwaukee have the lowest poverty rates, while Milwaukee is 3rd-highest at 18.0%. You think the fact that Milwaukee is still at the top in city vs. suburb segregation might have a bit to do with that? It's easy for Waukesha County to be low-poverty when they refuse to build housing developments for lower-income people in their communities, like they did in New Berlin. Maybe if these people stopped hiding from the real world, they might actually start to do something about this serious problem that is killing life in the 414 and 262 area codes.

And also, note the high rates of poverty in the isolated Indianhead region of NW Wisconsin. Scary stuff, and it tells you that poverty is anything but an urban issue.

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