Study finds Wisconsin’s African American poverty rate three to four times higher than white poverty rate

CONTACT:  Timothy Smeeding,, (608) 890-1317

MADISON—A supplement to the annual Wisconsin Poverty Report released today examines poverty and income by race and ethnicity in the state overall and in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin’s most populous county.

The study finds large disparities in financial insecurity between white residents and those of color, especially African Americans.

The supplement, like the Wisconsin Poverty Report, uses the Wisconsin Poverty Measure (WPM), which was designed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison to inform policy by offering up-to-date and place-specific data that go beyond the official statistics for Wisconsin.

One of the important differences between the WPM and the official poverty measure that produces the statistics cited by news media is that the WPM considers noncash benefits and taxes, including refundable tax credits. Including these forms of assistance and tax credits that reward work in poverty calculations produces much more accurate estimates of resources and need than possible using the official measure.

Recent attention to racial segregation in Milwaukee, poor economic, educational, and social outcomes for black children in Wisconsin, and large racial differences in incarceration rates suggests that populations of color are not faring well in the state and especially not in Milwaukee.

In this supplement, researchers take a closer look. The population is from the 2016 American Community Survey (ACS) sample and is divided into three groups: black non-Hispanics (7.2 percent of the Wisconsin population), Hispanic and other ethnicities and races, including Asians and mixed races (10.2 percent), and white non-Hispanics (82.7 percent).

Milwaukee County is the main area of focus in this report, which in 2016 included 69.0 percent of all blacks and 70.3 of all black children in the state.

Researchers measured the economic status of children by the incomes of their families. Family units with black children accounted for 11.8 percent of all Wisconsin families in the 2016 ACS sample, but 39.5 percent of all families with children in Milwaukee County (see Figure 1).

Please see the supplemental report here.

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