Employment and Training Institute .

Research Update

Community Indicators for Central City Milwaukee: 1993 - Present

Milwaukee community indicators reports were initially developed by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute with funding from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and the City of Milwaukee to provide independent, timely and ongoing assessment tools to measure short-term and long-term progress toward improving economic and employment well-being of families in central city Milwaukee neighborhoods. Indicators track changes by neighborhood since 1993, prior to the beginning of state and federal welfare reform, and demonstrate the advantages of using administrative and institutional databases to measure dimensions of urban life. The Brookings Institution has identified the ETI neighborhood indicators approach as a national model.

graph of 
income differences by selected zipcodes Income Inequality in Milwaukee County

The ETI analysis of family income by neighborhood found that even within the small geographic area of Milwaukee County (i.e., 241 square miles of land), children have access to vastly different economic supports for their basic needs as well as for their educational opportunities. State income tax records for 2012 showed extreme income inequality among families with dependents, ranging from $20,260 average annual income in Milwaukee's poorest's zipcode (53206) to a 12 times higher average of $253,082 in the suburban "North Shore" zipcode 53217. When examined by marital status, income gaps are even more startling for married tax filers with dependents, ranging from $34,856 in the predominantly Hispanic zipcode 53204 to $328,399 in the downtown/eastside 53202.

The data showed 3871 fewer single parent tax filers (with dependents) in 2012, a 5% drop over 2011 and the largest decline showed in recent years. It appears that parents who "rode out" the recession are now showing difficulty competing with growing unemployed and underemployed populations for low wage jobs. In 2011 the state legislature cut its earned income tax credit support for "working poor" families with one more than one child, and Milwaukee County employed families have seen $17 million reductions in EIC supports under that legislation. The brunt of the cuts has fallen on single parents ($15 million loss), and particularly those residing in innercity poverty neighborhoods.

dollar sign Assets of African American Neighborhoods

The ONE MKE Summit raised important concerns about who defines the assets of Milwaukee neighborhoods and where the considerable income from residents is spent. A resource data paper for the Summit delineated the Census Bureau estimates of African American income in Milwaukee County. Among the findings:

  • African American residents of Milwaukee County had annual income totaling over $3.5 billion in 2011, with over 70% of this income concentrated in the 9 zip codes where African Americans make up a majority of the population.
  • African American income has tremendous economic development potential if tapped for locally-owned businesses and recycled through the community.
  • There is a need for locally-developed, accurate descriptions of the assets of the African American community as called for by the ONE MKE Summit participants. Several of the largest data marketing firms continue to denigrate predominantly African American neighborhoods and to ignore the advantages of urban density for retail locations.

Randy Crump, president of the African American Chamber of Commerce A critical priority for this issue on Milwaukee's north side is the focus of the ONE MKE Summit, the NAACP, and the African American Chamber of Commerce on maximizing the income assets of local residents for their own neighborhoods. The Chamber is working to identify and help African American-owned businesses, and the NAACP Young Adult Committee has initiated "recycle the black dollar" campaigns to build support for local businesses and to raise awareness of the advantages of maximizing how long retail dollars remain in the community. Randy Crump, president of the Chamber, recently talked to Wisconsin Eye about the issues and successful initiatives addressing economic development.

Income Tax Data Show Impact of Recession on Milwaukee County Families

Income Changes during the Recession for "Working Poor" Single Parent Families in Central City Milwaukee analyzed working age state tax filers with dependents. Over half (59%) of single filers in 9 central city zipcodes had less than $20,000 annual income in 2011, suggesting low-wages, part-time jobs, high job turnover, and less than year-round employment. Single parents in Milwaukee's innercity bore the brunt of 2011 state legislated cuts in the earned income tax credit for "working poor" families, with a 26% loss of credit income. Average income filings by single and married families are detailed in the report. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on local and state concerns about the EIC reductions reported in the study.

Earned Income Tax Credits to 66,000 Employed Families in Milwaukee County during the Economic Recession details family tax filers (with dependents) qualifying for and receiving the EIC based on their 2009 income earnings. 44% of all working-age family filers in the county used the credit -- receiving $35.9 million in state credits and an estimated $219 million in federal credits. Every residential zipcode in the county had hundreds of qualifying families, with the biggest financial impacts in 53218, 53209 and 53215. In 3 suburbs (Cudahy, St. Francis, and South Milwaukee) a third or more of family filers used the credit, and in 11 city and city-suburban zipcodes (53206, 53233, 53205, 53212, 53210, 53218, 53208, 53216, 53209, 53225 and 53224) over half of family filers used the EIC.

Indicators for 9 High-Poverty Zip Codes

Along with conducting the school census for Milwaukee Public Schools, the Employment and Training Institute was commissioned to prepare a socio-economic analysis of issues facing children and families in Milwaukee Public Schools. The research used administrative and institutional data bases to describe conditions in the city and in 9 high-poverty zip codes, focusing on the impacts of the economic recession, national foreclosure crisis, federal-state subsidized child care program, record African American incarceration rates, crime levels, public assistance programs, driver's license policies, and relatively low earnings of employed Milwaukee families. The following reports are available:

Among the concerns raised are the numbers of Milwaukee families with earnings near or below the poverty level, concentration of single parents in the city, a 25 to 1 inner city job gap between job seekers and job openings, continuing effects of the foreclosure crisis as seen in city blocks with multiple houses up for sheriff sales, failure of the state-subsidized child care program to monitor or emphasize early childhood education, "hit and run" accident rates approaching 50% on the near southside, and incarceration rates reaching 60% for African American males of prime working age on the northside.

[2006 indicators are available for zipcodes 53204 | 53205 | 53206 | 53208 | 53210 | 53212 | 53216 | 53218 | 53233]

Poverty in the Schools

A new indicators study on Children Most Impacted by the Economic Recession uses state and federal data on the number of families eligible for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assess concentrations of poverty by school building throughout Wisconsin and in the Milwaukee metro area. The report examines numbers of children attending schools where 50% or more of the children are poor, the growing concentration of poverty within Milwaukee Public Schools, and economic factors (including a 9.1% unemployment rate in the City of Milwaukee in January 2009 and a 7 to 1 job gap between job seekers and job openings in inner city Milwaukee neighborhoods) contributing to the high numbers of employed Milwaukee families with poverty-level incomes.

map of school buildings with 50% or more poor children

Poverty in ZIP Code 53206: Milwaukee's Poorest Neighborhood

The 53206 ZIP code neighborhood serves as a bellwether for poverty changes in Milwaukee and nationally. In the 1990s prior to welfare reform in Wisconsin it had the largest number of families receiving AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children). In the 2000 Census it showed the largest number of families in poverty among Milwaukee zipcodes.

UWM Feature Article on ETI's
Neighborhood Research
UWM Feature Article on ETI's Neighborhood Research

As part of a WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio series on youth violence in Milwaukee, listen to reporter LaToya Dennis' interview of residents and exploration of youth violence in 53206, The Evolution of a Zip Code. In the 1960s a North-South Freeway was constructed through the heart of the community, displacing thousands of residents. Loss of manufacturing jobs has impacted male breadwinners.

photo by LaToya Dennis
WUWM's LaToya Dennis looks at a mentoring/work program in 53206

Today's TMJ4 reported on the "53206 Initiative" to lower the number of black men in prison. "If we can bring opportunity, bring back jobs, bring back employment, bring back a sense of moral obligation, we can actually heal this," said Reverend Willie Brisco. "We're hoping to prevent that pipeline from high school to prison and stop recidivism and foster jobs," said Reverend Richard Shaw of St. Matthew Church.

Today's TMJ4

map of foreclosures in zipcode 53206 Reports on neighborhood change in 53206 include a 12-year analysis of subprime lending practices, 13-year analysis of ex-prison population, earned income tax credit claim rates by neighborhood, families receiving public assistance, income levels of single and married families with dependents. Reports have been completed for ZIP Code 53206.

Indepth Analysis of Ex-Prisoner Issues

Indepth Analysis of Housing Issues for Low-Income Households

Related Studies

Purchasing Power Research (2000-2005)

Food buying power in 53204 To assist the City of Milwaukee in describing the income concentration and spending power around commercial districts, the Employment and Training Institute used the databases amassed for the neighborhood indicators project along with a state-of-the-art methodology based on the Consumer Expenditure Survey data by types of families and households to describe purchasing power and economic assets in neighborhoods throughout Milwaukee County and in zipcodes in Racine, Kenosha, Waukesha, Washington, and Ozaukee County. Individual reports (including comparison tables for 53 ZIP codes, graphs, aerial photos, and density maps) are posted.

Brookings Institution Brookings Reports on the ETI Indicators Research

The Milwaukee indicators approach has been recognized as a national model by The Brookings Institution. Brookings commissioned a discussion paper on how to replicate the Milwaukee ETI approach and a second report on strategies to identify economic assets of central city neighborhoods.

Background on the Indicators Project

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute developed indices from institutional and administrative databases to measure employment, economic and welfare changes in Milwaukee neighborhoods beginning in 1991. The first ZIP code level research project conducted by the Employment and Training Institute focused on Identifying Youth in Critical Need of Intervention: Lessons from the Past, Measures for the Future for zipcodes 53204 and 53206. This 1991 study identified families most in need of intervention services from the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services.

In 1998 the indices were expanded to include 9 zipcodes in Milwaukee's central city in order to assist local foundations in assessing the neighborhood-wide impacts of the elimination of Aid to Families with Dependent Children on children and families. More recently, assessments have focused on the disparate impacts of the recession and the national housing crisis by neighborhood.

The indices are designed to gauge short-term and long-term progress toward improving the economic and employment well-being of families in central city Milwaukee, utilizing institutional records from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Milwaukee County, City of Milwaukee, Internal Revenue Service, and U.S. Census Bureau, among others. Individual reports are available on nine Milwaukee zipcode areas targeted by Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) programs. Data trends are analyzed for 1992 to present.

Monthly Drilldowns for the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board

Since 2009 the Employment and Training Institute collaborated with MAWIB staff to track economic trends affecting job stability and training concerns for Milwaukee County workers. First page summaries below or full set:


Vital Signs for the Greater Milwaukee Foundation: 2009-2011

The Employment and Training Institute prepared indicators of economic need for the Greater Milwaukee Foundation "Vital Signs" to help track the impact of the recession on local counties and the metro area as a whole. Monthly changes were posted for:

  • BadgerCare Plus enrollments
  • Families receiving W-2 (TANF) income support
  • FoodShare recipients
  • Home foreclosure court filings
  • Laid-off workers on unemployment insurance
  • Unemployment rates

For summaries of the data findings, see:

For its coverage of the GMF/ETI "Vital Signs," WUWM public radio won the Associated Press award for Enterprise Reporting and the Northwest Broadcast News Association "1st Place, General Reporting" award.

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