Study: Wisconsin poverty measure rises in 2013 despite job gains

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MADISON, Wisconsin — A new study shows poverty rose slightly in Wisconsin from 2012 to 2013, despite some job gains.

The report released Tuesday by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers says the Wisconsin Poverty Measure rose to 10.9 percent in 2013, up from 10.2 percent in 2012. That measure was roughly 2.5 percentage points lower than the official Wisconsin poverty rate from the federal government.

Urban Institute senior fellow Julia Isaacs, an author of the report, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1Fc3Vzx ) that researchers didn't expect poverty go up in light of job gains. She said much of the growth is in low-wage jobs, and that the end of a payroll tax cut meant more money came out of workers' paychecks.

The Wisconsin Poverty Measure takes into account family income as well as food assistance and refundable tax credits, while the official federal poverty measure is based on pretax cash income.

Researchers at UW-Madison's Institute for Research on Poverty, which produced the report, say good jobs are the best way to lift people out of poverty. But the alternate measure is meant to look at how assistance programs can keep people out of poverty.

"Poverty is measured by the economy and how the safety net is doing," Isaacs said. "It is good to look at both."

In the Great Recession, Isaacs said an expansion of the earned income tax credit and nutritional assistance helped prevent people from falling into poverty. The poverty rate declined in 2012 as jobs were added, she said, but job gains didn't prevent a poverty increase in 2013.

The child poverty rate under the Wisconsin Poverty Measure rose to 11.8 percent in 2013 from 11 percent in 2012, while the elderly poverty rate jumped to 9 percent from 6.2 percent.

Milwaukee and La Crosse counties were the only ones to be above the statewide poverty rate.


Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

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