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Wisconsin poverty rate remains unchanged

Wisconsin’s poverty rate remained unchanged from 2013 to 2014, despite the addition of almost 60,000 jobs.

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers studying economic and policy forces affecting poverty said the rate remained unchanged at 10.8 percent in the eighth annual Wisconsin Poverty Report.

They cited low-wage jobs and part-time employment as factors in the unchanged poverty rate. Other factors included Republican initiatives to decrease antipoverty efforts — including food assistance and refundable tax credits and increases in medical expenses and work-related costs.

Four counties had poverty rates higher than the statewide average of 10.8:

• Dane County, 13.5 percent.

• Walworth County, 16.6 percent.

• Kenosha County, 16.7 percent.

• Milwaukee County, 17.3 percent.

Poverty rates in Washington/Ozaukee, Fond du Lac/Calumet, St. Croix/Dunn, Marathon, Sheboygan and Waukesha were lower than the state average.

Timothy Smeeding, an economist at UW-Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs, and Katherine Thornton, a programmer analyst at the Institute for Research on Poverty, developed the analysis outlined in the study.

Meanwhile, a new analysis of poverty in the United States from the Food Research and Action Center finds one in six households struggled to put food on the table in 2015.

“The data in this report represent an economic and political failure that is leaving tens of millions of Americans struggling with hunger and this struggle is happening in every community in America,” FRAC president Jim Weill said. “We must redouble our efforts to ensure no American is left behind.”

Food hardship was highest in Mississippi, where 23 percent of households struggled to buy food.

The low, 8.4 percent, was in North Dakota.

Wisconsin’s hardship rate was 12 percent.

FRAC, in its How Hungry is America? report, called for boosting wages and strengthening government programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and child nutrition campaigns.

Hard times

How is food hardship measured? Gallup, in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, measures food hardship with the following question: “Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?”

On the Web

Go online to www.wisconsingazette.com to find the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism’s special report on poverty’s toll on young brains and work to close the academic achievement gap.

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