- Views & Opinions
New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the median household income fell in two-thirds of Wisconsin counties between 2009 and 2014.
Census data released in early December shows incomes fell by at least 10 percent in 10 counties. Vilas County saw the steepest decline at 13.3 percent.
Milwaukee County saw a 10.3 percent drop and Dane County saw a 5.2 percent drop. Incomes rose in Adams and Florence and held relatively steady in 23 counties.
The declines in Wisconsin mirror the United States as a whole. Median income fell by 7.5 percent in the U.S. after adjusting for inflation.
Tim Smeeding, professor of public affairs and economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the drop in income figures in Wisconsin show the effect of the recession on the state’s manufacturing sector. Smeeding, who authors the annual Wisconsin Poverty Report, said the data also show the middle class is struggling.
“The people who got hurt were the people who could walk out of high school and earn a middle-class living,” Smeeding said. “Now, all that’s disappeared.”
Wells Fargo Funds Management strategist Brian Jacobsen said the figures aren’t surprising given the nation’s slow economic recovery.
“It’s been such a weak economic recovery,” said Jacobsen, who also teaches financial planning at Wisconsin Lutheran College. “Up to this point, it seemed like median incomes were at best keeping up with inflation.”
The statewide median income did rise from $51,598 in 2010 to $52,738 in 2014. Incomes in Vilas, Milwaukee and Dane counties rose over that four-year span, too.