Racial disparity in Wisconsin is extreme and carries through all types of societal measures, including poverty, unemployment, education and prison, according to a newly released report from a UW-Madison think tank.
The report, “Wisconsin’s Extreme Racial Disparity 2017,” is from the Center On Wisconsin Strategy, or COWS, an organization looking at “high road” solutions to social problems.
The new report says Wisconsin is one of the worst states when it comes to disparity between blacks and whites.
“The gap in economic and educational outcomes between black and white Wisconsinites is not inevitable, but instead has widened over the past 30 years,” Laura Dresser, associate director of COWS, said in a statement.
“We hope this report will support the work of so many advocates in the state working to close these gaps and build a more-inclusive Wisconsin,” she said.
The report shows Wisconsin ranking near the top in a wide variety of categories for the states with the worst racial disparity.
In economic opportunity disparity, Wisconsin was among the top three worst states in almost every category.
Using 2015 statistics, COWS said the disparity in unemployment was third worst in the U.S., with almost 12 percent of Wisconsin’s black workers unemployed compared to 3.9 percent of the state’s white workers. The unemployed are considered those looking for work but not able to find work.
Wisconsin also was third worst in the country in median household income disparity, with white households earning twice as much as black households.
Poverty rates were much higher for blacks than whites in Wisconsin, according to the report. Thirty-one percent of black families lived in poverty in 2015, compared to 5.8 percent of the state’s white families. The nearly 5-to-1 ratio was the second-worst disparity in the country.
The difference was less pronounced but still jarring for children under 18, with four times more black children living in poverty than white children.
Educational disparity was worse than economic disparity, the report said, with Wisconsin ranking first of the worst in eighth grade math scores and high school graduation rates, and second-worst in the percentage of adults 25 or older with a high school diploma.
In the 2014-15 school year, white eighth-graders were five times more likely to be proficient in math than black eighth-graders, and 93 percent of the state’s white high school seniors graduated compared to 64 percent of the state’s black high school seniors.
Wisconsin ranked second-worst in the disparity of the percentage of adults 25 or older having a high school degree or better, with 93 percent of whites and 81 percent of blacks meeting that mark.
For those incarcerated in America, Wisconsin was ranked second-worst in the ratio of blacks in prison or jail compared to whites with 11.5 blacks incarcerated for every white inmate.
The five worst states were in the Midwest or Northeast, with New Jersey the worst, followed by Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Vermont, while four of the five states with the least disparity among inmates were in the South.
“In the 1970s, Wisconsin was a relatively good state for African Americans,” the report’s conclusion states. “As a state, we can make choices that will help close the current economic and educational gaps.”
The full report can be found online at www.cows.org/_data/documents/1816.pdf.
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