Thursday, September 19, 2013

Census Data: Most Wisconsinites Have Gained Little from the Nation’s Economic Recovery

Despite Small Gains, More than Half a Million Wisconsinites Remain Uninsured

Do you feel like the nation’s gradual recovery from the Great Recession has largely passed you by? If so, you have plenty of company. New data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau show that poverty remains high in Wisconsin and median income remains far below its pre-recession level. However, one modest area of improvement is a small but statistically significant decrease in the portion of non-elderly Wisconsinites who are uninsured.

A WCCF press release summarizes some of the key findings for our state and contains two tables showing some of the basis statistics on income, poverty and health insurance coverage in 23 Wisconsin counties.

Here are some of the key findings from our analysis of the Wisconsin data from the American Community Survey (ACS) in 2012:
  • More than 235,000 Wisconsin children were living below the poverty line last year.
  • Wisconsin’s child poverty rate was 18.2% in 2012, no change from 2011, and far above the 13.4% rate in 2008, and just 11.1% in 2000. 
  • Wisconsin’s overall poverty rate in 2012 was 13.2% (a small, statistically insignificant increase from 2011), considerably higher than its pre-recession 2008 rate of 10.8%.
  • Median household income among state residents was $51,059 in 2012, $389 below the previous year, and almost $5,000 (9%) below the $56,010 figure in 2007.
  • The Black child poverty rate (50.2% in 2012) was more than four times the 11% rate for White non-Hispanic children.
On a somewhat brighter note, there was a small, 0.4 percentage point increase in Wisconsinites under age 65 who have private insurance. That can probably be attributed to two factors: the gradual improvement in the economy and a large increase in the percentage of young adults who are insured, thanks to the provision in the Affordable Care Act allowing them to be covered on a parent’s plan until age 26.

Other parts of the health insurance findings include the following:
  • There were about 506,000 uninsured Wisconsinites in 2012.
  • Our state’s uninsured rate was 10.4% of the non-elderly population (compared to 10.8% in 2010), and 9.0% of the total population.
  • The portion of Wisconsinites with public insurance was essentially unchanged at 20.3% (up 0.1 percentage point from 2010).
Although I’m pleased to see the modest improvements in access to health insurance, we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that more than half a million Wisconsinites are uninsured, and we have a long way to go to achieve the Governor’s target of cutting that in half.  Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act makes that goal a realistic one.

Read more and see the county-level statistics in today’s WCCF press release.

Jon Peacock

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