For many residents of Wisconsin and Milwaukee County, the recession has dealt a double blow. They have lost both their jobs and their health insurance. A new county-level analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families (WCCF) examines the impacts of the recession on families across the state, based on measures such as unemployment, income, poverty and access to health insurance.
The Council’s analysis found that the recession has adversely affected Milwaukee County residents in a number of ways:
- Unemployment jumped from 6.8 percent in 2008 to 10.9 percent in 2009.
- The poverty rate rose from 17.1 percent to 20.1 percent.
- Median household income fell by $3,376, or 7.4 percent.
WCCF executive director Ken Taylor said the sharp increase in unemployment and poverty during the recession makes it important for federal lawmakers to extend some of the relief for low-income families initiated in 2009. In particular, he stressed the need to continue the extended unemployment insurance benefits for the longer-term unemployed and the improvements made to the federal tax credits for low-income families.
Although there has been a gradual erosion of employer-sponsored health insurance since at least 2000, that trend accelerated during the recession. The WCCF analysis found that from 2008 to 2009, an estimated 141,300 Wisconsinites lost their private insurance coverage, including 42,900 Milwaukee County residents.
The Census Bureau data show that even though the portion of the Wisconsin population with private health insurance fell by 2.9 percentage points last year, the state’s BadgerCare Plus program picked up most of the slack. It grew by 109,400 people from 2008 to 2009, holding the increase in the uninsured to 0.6 percentage points.
The trend in Milwaukee County was very similar. Although 42,900 people lost private coverage in 2009, BadgerCare Plus enrollment grew by 28,100 people, holding growth in the share of county residents who are uninsured to 1.4 percentage points.
Taylor noted that Badger- Care Plus has been critically important for families who have lost their jobs and their private health insurance during the recession.
“BadgerCare Plus ensures that children can still get the checkups and preventive care they need to stay healthy and focus on learning,” Taylor said. “And it allows parents to focus on meeting their family’s other needs, knowing that they don’t have to worry about a flu outbreak or a playground mishap driving the family deeper into debt.”
The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey provides detailed data for 23 of Wisconsin ’s 72 counties. WCCF has prepared charts and fact sheets analyzing the data for each of those counties. They can be found on the Council’s website at: http://wccf.org/kidcount_recession.php.