Jobs rise, but work support programs still needed

  • Associated Press
  • May 8, 2014 - 11:05 AM

MADISON, Wis. — Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who conduct an annual study of poverty have found jobs and earnings are beginning to rise again as the Badger State recovers from the recession.

But they also found that jobs have not returned to pre-recession levels and that many of the new jobs are part-time, low-wage service sector positions. The study says work support programs, such as food assistance and refundable tax credits, are still needed to raise many working families with children above the poverty line.

"In times of need, a safety net that enhances low earnings for families with children, puts food on the table, and encourages self-reliance, as Wisconsin's safety net does, makes a big difference," says Timothy Smeeding, the UW's La Follette School professor who co-authored the study.

Smeeding and his colleagues found that the overall poverty rate in 2012 declined to 10.2 percent, the lowest rate since a state-specific poverty measure devised by the researchers was first used in 2009. The U.S. Census Bureau recorded the official poverty rate for Wisconsin that year as 12.8 percent.

Smeeding said the Wisconsin Poverty Measure, or WPM, is a more accurate assessment because it takes into account noncash public benefits, health care costs and work-related expenses.

Pockets of poverty remain well above average for the state, especially in Milwaukee's central city, but also in Madison and the Superior region, according to the report.

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