Rural poverty in Wisconsin likely to increase – Audio

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Rural poverty in Wisconsin

Leann Tigges, Professor
Community and Environmental Sociology
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
lmtigges@wisc.edu
(608) 890-0347

Katherine Curtis, Assistant Professor
Community and Environmental Sociology
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
kcurtis@ssc.wisc.edu
(608) 890-1900

3:18 – Total Time

0:20 – Rural poverty defined
1:03 – What poverty looks like
1:56 – What the research shows
2:48 – Future poverty trends
3:05 – Lead out

TRANSCRIPT

Rural poverty in Wisconsin. We’re visiting today with Leann Tigges and Katherine Curtis, Department of Community and Environmental Sociology, University of WI, in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, WI and I’m Sevie Kenyon.

Sevie Kenyon: Leann, perhaps you can define rural poverty for us?

Leann Tigges: Poverty level for a single person is around $11,000 a year. So, for a family of three: $18,000. So, if you make more than that you’re not considered poor, if you make less than that you are. Many people think that people in rural areas actually need much less than urban people but a lot of things besides housing take more of a rural families budget. So, transportation costs can be higher, utilities costs can be higher, so lots of things that rural families need are more expensive.

Sevie Kenyon: Katherine, what does poverty in rural Wisconsin look like?

Katherine Curtis: Three things. The first is poverty is very persistent. Once a place becomes impoverished it seems really difficult for it become not impoverished. The second element is that poverty doesn’t happen in a historical vacuum nor does it happen in geographic vacuum. There are certain factors that are associated with poverty that also are distributed across the state in a systematic way. So we refer to the northern part of the state because, well, there’s a particular dominant set of industries that exists in the northern part of the state. And then that gets us to the third point, which is what I’ve been noticing and looking at poverty is the issue of unemployment and the underemployment. And underemployment in the most recent ten-year period between 2000 to 2010 has a strong relationship to community level poverty.

Sevie Kenyon: Leann, what do you see in the research?

Leann Tigges: I think the research really shows that the problem of poverty is a problem of job quality for rural people. Joblessness is not as big of an issue but what’s happened is that the jobs aren’t paying enough to lift a family out of poverty. Rural jobs tend to pay less, they tend to have worse benefits, and they tend to be more seasonal and part time. And so that job quality is a huge issue. So, if you ask what would be an anti-poverty strategy it would be to improve jobs. Not just providing more jobs but improving the wages of jobs.

Sevie Kenyon: Katherine, look into your crystal ball for us and tell us what you see changing down the road?

Katherine Curtis: One of the things that we anticipated was the increasing importance of underemployment vs. unemployment. It’s not necessarily an issue of the number of jobs but the issue of job quality. So, if things are progressing in their current state, what we would anticipate is a continued increase in poverty.

Sevie Kenyon:  We’ve been visiting with Leann Tigges and Katherine Curtis, Department of Community and Environmental Sociology, University of WI, in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, WI and I’m Sevie Kenyon.