Whitewater Listed as the Poorest City in Wisconsin

Samuel Stebbins and Michael B. Sauter, from 24/7 Wall Street, report Which town in your state is the poorest? Here is the list @ Gannett’s USA Today.

For Wisconsin, they contend it’s Whitewater:

  • Town median household income: $30,934

  • State median household income: $54,610

  • Town poverty rate: 38.2%

  • Town population: 14,840

Whitewater has both the lowest median household income and the highest poverty rate of any town in Wisconsin. The typical Whitewater household earns $30,934 a year, significantly lower than the median income across the state of $54,610. Additionally, 38,2% of Whitewater residents live in poverty compared to 12.7% of Wisconsin residents. Despite the low incomes, a relatively small share of Whitewater residents depend on government assistance to afford food. Just 12.6% of Whitewater households receive SNAP benefits, in line with the 12.7% recipiency rate across the state.

Nobody wants to read something like this less than I do.  It’s heartbreaking.

These last several weeks, I’ve been reviewing data on mean and median household income changes between the City of Whitewater, the state of Wisconsin, and America over this last generation.  Whitewater’s relative decline is evident, with only some early data – on median income circa 1990 – yet needing to be added.  Child poverty is shockingly high.  The reporting from Stebbins and Sauter does not, sadly, surprise – any reasoned review of key measurements would show how troubled is Whitewater’s situation.

A generation of small-town marketing and public relations lies cannot conceal the difficult condition for large numbers of Whitewater households.

While these difficult conditions for many are not my own, I’m neither inclined to believe that the condition of a few justifies hardship for many others nor tempted to contend that the many should be statisfied only by the good fortune of the few. 

Stebbins and Sauter describe their approach:

Income inequality is a growing problem in the United States. Perhaps more evident now than in any time in recent memory, conspicuous consumption is juxtaposed with abject poverty in cities and towns across the country. While the rich and poor often live side by side, in some American towns, serious financial hardship is a daily reality for most who live there.

In every state, there are towns where the median household income falls well below the state and national median incomes. In over a dozen states, there are towns in which the typical household earns less than half the income that a typical household statewide earns.

24/7 Wall Street reviewed the median annual household income in every American town to identify the poorest town in each state. Even in wealthy states like Maryland and New Jersey there are towns that rank among the poorest in the country.

Any sound methodology and resulting measurement (and median household income is a standard measurement) that places Whitewater anywhere near the bottom reveals the fundamental failure of existing – years-long – approaches in Whitewater.

See also A Candid Admission from the Whitewater CDA.

Comments: Please see comments to this post, below, about whether these figures include the student population (I think they do) and what that means for the whole town (at best, a mixed picture, I think).  Many thanks for this discussion – one is always better in conversation.

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George Bailey
6 years ago

I am seeking to understand fully… do the measurements above include or ignore the student population?

6 years ago

Does the ranking include University students?