The Highest and Lowest Income Areas in Wisconsin

Wisconsin, situated in the Midwest region of the United States, boasts a population of approximately 5.7 million residents. The state’s economy is diverse, encompassing major sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, health care, and tourism. Additionally, Wisconsin takes pride in its rich cultural heritage, shaped by Native Americans, European immigrants, and African Americans.

Examining income distribution within the state prompts questions about variations across different areas. Which regions experience the highest and lowest incomes, and what factors contribute to these discrepancies?

Areas with the Highest Income

Referring to the List of Wisconsin locations by per capita income, the most affluent areas in Wisconsin predominantly lie in the southeastern part of the state, adjacent to the Illinois border and Lake Michigan. Notable regions include:

  • Ozaukee County: Leading in per capita income at $39,778, Ozaukee County also boasts the highest median household income ($74,996) and median family income ($90,133) in Wisconsin. Located within the Milwaukee metropolitan area, this county, with around 86,000 residents, is renowned for affluent suburbs like Mequon and Cedarburg, along with picturesque natural attractions like Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve and Harrington Beach State Park.
  • Waukesha County: With the second-highest per capita income ($36,752), Waukesha County is part of the Milwaukee metropolitan area, hosting a population of approximately 390,000. This county, home to thriving cities such as Brookfield, New Berlin, and Pewaukee, also accommodates corporate headquarters like GE Healthcare, Generac Power Systems, and Quad/Graphics.
  • Dane County: Ranking third in per capita income at $32,392, Dane County, the second-most populous in Wisconsin (around 488,000 residents), serves as the seat of the state capital, Madison. Boasting a dynamic economy, the county thrives in sectors such as education, government, biotechnology, and health care.

Contributing factors to the prosperity in these areas include:

Education: These regions surpass the state average in educational attainment, with higher percentages of adults holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, providing enhanced skills and employment opportunities.

Employment: Enjoying lower unemployment rates than the state average, these areas provide residents with stable income sources, contributing to an elevated standard of living.

Location: Proximity to major urban centers like Milwaukee and Madison, coupled with natural attractions, contributes to enhanced economic opportunities and a higher quality of life.

Areas with the Lowest Income

Conversely, according to the same source, the least prosperous areas in Wisconsin are predominantly situated in the northern and western regions, distanced from the Illinois border and Lake Michigan. These areas include:

  • Menominee County: Recording the lowest per capita income ($14,773), Menominee County, with approximately 4,500 residents, faces challenges such as poverty, unemployment, health issues, and infrastructure deficiencies. The county, entirely within the Menominee Indian Reservation, has a majority of Native American residents.
  • Iron County: With the second-lowest per capita income ($18,892), Iron County, encompassing about 5,900 residents, relies on industries such as tourism, recreation, and forestry. Vulnerable to seasonal fluctuations, the county has a history rooted in mining and logging.
  • Forest County: Ranking third in per capita income at $19,089, Forest County, with around 9,000 residents, relies on tourism, recreation, forestry, and gaming. The county’s economic challenges include issues of isolation and underdevelopment.

Factors contributing to lower income levels in these areas encompass:

  • Education: These regions exhibit lower rates of educational attainment compared to the state average, limiting opportunities for employment and career advancement.
  • Employment: Higher unemployment rates than the state average prevail, resulting in fewer residents with steady income sources, struggling to maintain a basic standard of living.
  • Location: Geographically distant from major urban centers, these areas face limited economic opportunities, services, and amenities, compounded by isolation, underdevelopment, and neglect by governmental bodies.


Wisconsin showcases a diverse spectrum of income levels influenced by factors such as location, education, and employment. The southeastern part of the state, near the Illinois border and Lake Michigan, features the highest income areas, while the northern and western regions exhibit lower income levels. These disparities reflect the varied economic, social, and cultural landscapes within Wisconsin’s communities.


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