Wisconsin vs. the US Economy Part 2- Where We Have Struggled

Last week we discussed how well Wisconsin and Madison have fared in comparison with the rest of the United States with regard to jobs lost in the recession and the unemployment rate. We noted that while that difference is certainly noteworthy, it does not paint a complete picture of the effects of the Great Recession on our great state.

That point was emphasized yesterday, when the U.S. Census Bureau released data showing that the median income in the state has dropped 14.5% between 1999 and 2010. The national decline during the same period was only 8.9%. The decline in Wisconsin was lead by the city of Milwaukee, where the median income dropped a staggering amount of nearly 22%. Dane County fared somewhat better at about 10%.

The reasons for this decline are numerous: struggling companies have instituted wage freezes along with cuts to pensions and benefits, workers have been laid off or the victims of downsizing, and those that are able to find work are often finding lower wages.

The U.S. Census Bureau data also noted an increase in people living in poverty. There was an increase of nearly 52% between 1999 and 2010 in Wisconsin, up to 13.2% from 8.7%. Some of the reasons for this are obvious and often discussed: higher unemployment, high rates of home foreclosures, stock market declines, and sharp increases in the cost of healthcare and other necessary items like gasoline have all put household finances in turmoil.

The purpose of reporting this data wasn’t to give you additional reasons to worry in light of the current round of economic and stock market volatility. The data simply shows that while our state has done a great job of keeping people working, that Wisconsin’s population is still feeling the vast effects of the Great Recession.

How about your situation? Do you feel better off in terms of income and financial situation than you did ten years ago?


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