Numbers don't usually tell the whole story. And sometimes they contradict what people on the street see every day.
That was the case with those asked to respond to data about the percentage of families living in poverty released Tuesday as part of the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey five-year estimate. This survey was based on data gathered from questionnaires sent to about 3 million households nationwide every year between Jan. 1, 2005, and Dec. 31, 2009.
Some metro-east communities saw dramatic changes in their poverty levels compared with data compiled for the 2000 census count.
The largest increase was in the city of Madison, a town of an estimated 4,254 residents, which saw the percentage of families living in poverty more than double from the 2000 count to 31.1 percent. This level is more than three times Illinois' overall rate of 9.1 percent.
Madison Mayor John W. Hamm III didn't see that coming.
"Wow," Hamm said. "I would have to disagree with the numbers."
Hamm, who also oversees the city's public housing department, said he had not noticed an increase in the demand for public housing or rental assistance vouchers.
"We do have a waiting list," he said, but added it has stayed steady over the years.
Hamm said no major employers have left the community in the last decade, and the nearby Gateway International Raceway, which closed in October, only employed five or six Madison residents.
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