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Report: Child Poverty On the Increase in Wisconsin

PHOTO: Ken Taylor of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families says Wisconsin is losing ground in the battle against childhood poverty. Photo courtesy WCCF.
PHOTO: Ken Taylor of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families says Wisconsin is losing ground in the battle against childhood poverty. Photo courtesy WCCF.
December 20, 2013

MADISON, Wis. – A new report by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families (WCCF) indicates the number of children growing up in poverty is on the rise in the Badger State.

"The good news about poverty in Wisconsin and childhood poverty is that we're lower than the national average,” says Ken Taylor, the Council’s executive director. “The bad news is that we're advancing faster than most of the nation.

“So, we're catching up fast, which means that we're seeing more and more children growing up in poverty in our state."

Taylor says the report illustrates clearly that the common belief that childhood poverty in Wisconsin is a Milwaukee-only problem is wrong.

"I think people's minds tend to think about our major urban areas, think about Milwaukee,” he says, “when in fact, two-thirds of our kids who live in poverty live outside of Milwaukee.

“So, it's a challenge across our state, and is a significant challenge in the more rural parts of our state."

Taylor says one in five children in Wisconsin – more than a quarter of a million – now live in poverty, adding that they are at greater risk of problems at school, serious health issues and frequent unemployment in later years.

The report suggests a number of areas where Wisconsin can take steps to help change the trend.

Taylor says it requires a two-pronged approach, addressing not only the needs of children, but also their parents.

"When it comes to the parents, it's about family-supporting wages and having them in jobs where they can support their family,” he explains. “And if they're not currently in jobs, getting them ready for jobs where they can support their families, because people don't want to be on public assistance."

Other priorities include improved health care, affordable housing and stronger income supports.

Taylor adds the problem isn't too big to fix.

"Studies show that it costs us $500 billion a year in lost economic output,” he stresses. “And so, I would argue that, when we ask the question, 'Can we afford to fix this?' I turn that around and say, 'We can't afford not to fix this.'"


Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI