Research Confirms Poverty Continues to be a Problem in Milwaukee

A door-to door survey conducted for the Social Development Commission (SDC) by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Center for Urban Initiatives and Research (UWM-CUIR) shows little change in the incidence and prevalence of poverty in Milwaukee’s central city.

Researchers surveyed residents of the City of Milwaukee’s 18 Neighborhood Strategic Planning areas that have been identified as having a high incidence of poverty and/or the need for community-based services. The work by UWM-CUIR was part of a community needs assessment for SDC. That assessment is regularly conducted by SDC as part of the agency’s participation in the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) program to: (1) identify the extent of individual need; (2) identify gaps in human services; (3) identify barriers to self-sufficiency; and (4) identify strategies for overcoming those barriers.

UWM-CUIR surveyed 425 households, with help from staff from Safe and Sound-Community Partners during the spring of 2013, and the results were compared to a similar survey conducted in 2009. Major findings include:

  • Poverty remains a serious problem in Milwaukee County
  • Quality of life is largely unchanged over the past three years
  • Many service needs and gaps exist in Milwaukee County
  • Lack of employment and education are major barriers keeping residents living in poverty
  • Creating more or better employment and education opportunities are highly recommended by residents as strategies to reduce poverty

Researchers conclude that while poverty exists among all groups of Milwaukee residents, some groups are more vulnerable to the ravages of poverty. People in poverty are more likely to be a person of color, to be female, a parent with children in the household, and unemployed. The information collected through this survey confirms what data from other sources, including the U.S. Census, have indicated about the pervasiveness of poverty in Milwaukee.

The UWM-CUIR and SDC survey is an integral part of an agency assessment that will be used to analyze the effectiveness of current SDC programs and also influence the development of future poverty-reduction initiatives. Many of SDC’s clients live within the neighborhoods surveyed for the study.

To view the entire CSBG Needs Assessment that includes the door-to door surveys, visit

I welcome your comments at

Jan Stenlund
Acting CEO
Social Development Commission

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Social Development Commission
4041 N. Richards Street
Milwaukee, WI 53212
Ph. (414) 906-2700
Fax (414) 272-7982


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