Wisconsin brings to mind images of Madison, beautiful landscapes, and some of the best people you’ll find in the good ole US of A.
However, like all states, Wisconsin has certain places that are going on hard times. These places have an above average percent of people that are living in poverty, out of work, or not making as much as they should be.
With all the talk about income inequality going on around the country, we thought it prudent to take a look at the places in each state that are struggling to make it even as the economy continues to improve. So we set our sites on bringing attention to the places in Wisconsin that could use a helping hand.
To do so, we analyzed the newest Census data from the American Community Survey for the 143 places in Wisconsin with more than 5,000 people.
We were left with this set of the ten poorest places in the Badger State for 2018:
- Whitewater (Photos)
- Milwaukee (Photos)
- Antigo (Photos)
- Beloit (Photos)
- Racine (Photos)
- Stevens Point (Photos)
- Menomonie (Photos)
- Wisconsin Rapids (Photos)
- Rice Lake
- Superior (Photos)
Again, this isn’t a commentary on the people that live there or the vibrant culture and traditions of these places. Instead, it’s just a look at the facts.
And according to the facts, Whitewater is the poorest place in Wisconsin for 2018.
For more on how we calculated the top ten, and for more information about these places, read on.
How We Determined The Poorest Places In Wisconsin For 2018
The first thing that comes to most people’s minds when they think about determining the poorest places is to simply the poverty rate. That is, the number of people living below a federally established level of income for a household of a certain size.
However, we don’t think that one statistic wholly encompasses what it means to be one of the ‘poorest places’. So we looked at this set of criteria from the newly released 2012-2016 American Community Survey:
- Poverty Level
- Median Household Income adjusted for the cost of living
- Unemployment Rate
The ‘median household income adjusted for the cost of living’ attempts to gauge how expensive it is to live in a place and how that impacts the quality of life. For example, a town might have fewer people living below the official poverty line, but the cost of living is so high they’d still feel poor.
The unemployment rate tries to capture the prospects for improvement in the city or town. If more people are employed, the brighter the future looks and vice versa.
After we collected the data for all 143 places with more than 5,000 people in Wisconsin, we ranked each place from 1 to 143 for each of the criteria, with 1 being the poorest.
We then averaged all the rankings for a place into a ‘Poor Score’ with the place having the lowest overall Poor Score, Whitewater, crowned the ‘Poorest Place In Wisconsin For 2018’.
You can learn more about the top ten below or skip to the end to see the rankings for all 143 places.
Population: 14,840Median Income: $30,934
Unemployment Rate: 8.8%
Poverty Rate: 38.2%
Whitewater, unfortunately, ranks as the poorest place in Wisconsin thanks to combination of low pay and and a lack of jobs.
The city of 14,840 people averages the 1st lowest median household income in Wisconsin and the 1st highest poverty rate. At the very least, the cost of living ranks in the bottom 15% of place in the state, so things like housing are relatively affordable.
Population: 598,672Median Income: $36,801
Unemployment Rate: 10.3%
Poverty Rate: 28.4%
The second poorest city in Wisconsin is Milwaukee.
The city ranks as having the 3rd highest incidence of poverty and 6th lowest median household income. However, the unemployment rate ‘only’ ranks as the 3rd highest in the Badger State.
Population: 7,930Median Income: $35,700
Unemployment Rate: 8.9%
Poverty Rate: 22.0%
Placing as the third poorest city, Antigo’s median income ranks as the 2nd lowest.
And that’s a sign that there’s a relatively substantial jump in the quality of the economy from second to third place on our list. The poverty rate is 22.0% and ranks near the bottom of places in the state.
But what makes up for the relatively low incomes of the city is its low cost of living. The income you do make here goes further than in most parts of the Badger State.
Population: 36,812Median Income: $37,779
Unemployment Rate: 12.0%
Poverty Rate: 24.1%
Beloit ranks as the fourth poorest place in Wisconsin.
The town ranks as having the 8th lowest median household income and the 7th highest incidence of poverty in the state.
That being said, there’s still a ton of cultural diversity in the city as it hosts many events throughout the year.
Population: 77,931Median Income: $41,178
Unemployment Rate: 10.9%
Poverty Rate: 21.9%
The fifth poorest city in Wisconsin is Racine.
The city ranks as having the 18th lowest median income in the state. However, an extremely low cost of living prevents a good number of folks from living in poverty as the poverty rate only ranks as the 9th highest in Wisconsin.
Still not the best news for Racine.
6. Stevens Point
Population: 26,714Median Income: $41,944
Unemployment Rate: 7.5%
Poverty Rate: 24.8%
Stevens Point ranks as the sixth poorest place in the Badger State.
It ranks as having the 6th highest incidence of poverty and the 11th highest unemployment rate.
Population: 16,295Median Income: $40,538
Unemployment Rate: 6.6%
Poverty Rate: 26.1%
Menomonie places as the seventh poorest city in Wisconsin.
The city of over 16,295 ranks as having the 4th highest incidence of poverty in the state. However, it has a very low cost of living which helps to pay the bills each month.
8. Wisconsin Rapids
Population: 17,987Median Income: $35,775
Unemployment Rate: 7.6%
Poverty Rate: 14.5%
Wisconsin Rapids ranks as the eighth poorest city in Wisconsin.
The big issue for the town is the unemployment rate which ranks as the 10th highest in the state.
9. Rice Lake
Population: 8,343Median Income: $37,763
Unemployment Rate: 6.6%
Poverty Rate: 17.1%
Rice Lake couldn’t stay out of the top ten poorest places in Wisconsin; it ranks number 9.
While the median income is the 7th lowest, there are a substantial number of people that live below the poverty line. Overall, Rice Lake ranks as having the 23rd most people living in poverty of all the places we analyzed in Wisconsin.
Population: 26,676Median Income: $41,030
Unemployment Rate: 6.3%
Poverty Rate: 20.3%
And rounding out the top ten poorest cities in Wisconsin is Superior.
The city of 26,676 people ranks in the bottom 20% for both median income and poverty rate in the Badger State.
There You Have It – The Poorest Places In Wisconsin For 2018
Like we said earlier, when we set out to identify the poorest places in Wisconsin, we weren’t sure what we’d encounter, but it ended up being some of the best places to live in Wisconsin.
When you look at the data, the cities and places mentioned above meet the criteria for being at the very bottom of the income ladder for everyone that lives there.
If you’re curious enough, here are the richest cities in Wisconsin, according to data:
Richest: Elm Grove
2nd Richest: Fox Point
3rd Richest: Mequon
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