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Census: Wisconsin incomes up, poverty down; digital divide yawns
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Census: Wisconsin incomes up, poverty down; digital divide yawns


Incomes generally rose and the percentage of people in poverty and without insurance declined in most Wisconsin counties in 2013-2017 compared to the previous five-year period, which included the Great Recession, according to new numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The numbers, released publicly Thursday, also shed new light on the digital divide between rich and poor, and urban and rural, residents.

Median household incomes rose by an average of about $3,200 in 15 of the state’s 72 counties. In most counties, the change was not enough to fall outside the margins of error.

Oneida County had the largest growth, with income jumping from $47,145 in 2008-2012 to nearly $53,000 in the following five-year span.

Dane County, with the state’s sixth-highest median income at $67,631, saw the smallest increase.

Only Manitowoc County saw a drop, with household income falling about $2,300.

Of 13 counties with a statistically significant change in family poverty rates, only three saw an increase: Richland, Manitowoc and Pepin.

Between 2013 and 2017, Milwaukee County had the state’s highest poverty rate, with nearly 16 percent of families living below the poverty line, which this year is $25,100 for a family of four.

St. Croix County had the lowest poverty rate, at 2.6 percent of families.

The number of people without health insurance declined in 56 counties. No counties had a statistically significant increase in uninsured rates.

Nationwide, median household income increased in 16.6 percent of all counties and fell in 7.1 percent. Poverty rates declined in 14 percent of all counties and rose in 8.4 percent.

Thursday’s estimates mark the first release of nationwide data on computer and internet use.

In half of Wisconsin counties, fewer than 60 percent of households own smartphones.

In Richland and a handful of other western counties, barely half of all households have a smartphone. Fewer than 10 percent of the nation’s counties — most in the South — have lower rates of smartphone ownership.

By comparison, more than 77 percent of the households in Dane County have smartphones.

At least 30 percent of all households in nine counties lack any internet access. In 10 counties, fewer than half have some sort of wired broadband service.

More than 85 percent of homes in Waukesha and Dane counties have broadband.

Nationally, about 75 percent of households in urban counties had broadband, compared to 65 percent in purely rural counties.

Income is a key factor in who has internet access: 93 percent of Wisconsin households with income of more than $75,000 had broadband, compared to just 75 percent of those with incomes of $20,000 to $75,000.

About half of households with income below $20,000 had broadband connections.

The numbers come from the American Community Survey, which covers more than 40 social, economic, housing and demographic topics, and represent a snapshot of conditions during the years 2013-2017.

Based on ongoing surveys, the five-year estimates are the only comprehensive data set for the 2,316 counties with populations too small to produce accurate estimates each year.

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