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Poverty rates not declining as quickly in Wisconsin as in some other states

Picture of an empty wallet

A new report from UW Madison says poverty rates in Wisconsin are dropping, but not as quickly as other states.

The report, published by the school's Division of Extension, says that Badger State is recovering from events like the Great Recession, and the Covid-19 Pandemic, at a slower rate than neighboring states like Michigan and Illinois.

Steven Deller, who authored the report, said, "Our economic base has historically not been one that invests a lot in research in development, but it could be that our economic base is just not as robust as some of the neighboring states."

He said that after the Great Recession, the state cut funding to several programs to avoid raising taxes, while the states that did the opposite, were found to have recovered quicker. He mentioned some of the report's biggest findings.

Deller said, "But what's behind that drop in poverty rates right after covid hit, was a really significant drop in child poverty rates, and that was because of the targeted stimulus money aimed at households with children."

Now that the stimulus checks are no longer being given out, other officials say that households with children are having a negative impact on poverty rates due to the state's lack of affordable child care.

Tim Smeeding, a professor emeritus at UW Madison's La Follette School of Public Affairs, said, "If you're talking about poverty among single parents for instance, you really have to do something about childcare. Without childcare, it's impossible for a single parent to go to work."

Smeeding said that employers across the state should try to recruit from low-income areas to help get people out of poverty, and solve their own worker shortages at the same time.

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