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Study shows disparities in Milwaukee pedestrians impacted in vehicle crashes

Milwaukee has been labeled the most segregated city in the country and the worst city for African Americans for a litany of categories.
Pedestrian crossing street
Posted at 6:59 PM, Jan 19, 2023

MILWAUKEE — A UW-Milwaukee study looking at the socioeconomic characteristics between drivers and pedestrians in crashes highlights another disparity in Milwaukee impacting communities of color.

“There is a theory or an idea that higher income people might be responsible for crashes towards pedestrians in these areas and affecting more lower-income people,” Tony Giron said.

Giron co-authored the study. He reviewed a random sampling of 339 pedestrian crashes from 2011 to 2015 in Milwaukee County. Through those crash reports, Giron, Xiaohan Gu, and Robert Schneider compared home locations and socioeconomic characteristics of drivers and pedestrians who were struck.

“Our findings, on average, drivers who hit pedestrians were older, of higher income, higher automobile ownership, more white residents and fewer Black residents,” Giron said.

Statistic on Milwaukee pedestrians
Milwaukee pedestrians face a disproportionate statistic when it relates to pedestrian crashes with non-Milwaukee drivers.

In cases where a Milwaukee pedestrian was struck, Giron says 25.4 percent of those crashes involved a driver from outside of Milwaukee. Compared to the alternative, a non-Milwaukee pedestrian being struck by a Milwaukee driver, which happened in 9.8 percent of crashes.

“Why is this happening?” Giron said. “People who are poor, who are unfortunately often people of color, travel more locally. That might be why we see some of these findings.”

Pedestrians in Milwaukee stat
Alternatively, non-Milwaukee pedestrians are hit by Milwaukee drivers only 9.8 percent of the time according to Giron's study.

Overall, more pedestrians in the City of Milwaukee are killed or injured in vehicle crashes than in the surrounding suburbs. Of the 31 Milwaukee County pedestrian deaths last year, 22 were in the city. In 2021, there were 21 pedestrian deaths in the county, and 17 were in the city. All of this, Giron says, highlights another disparity.

“People of color are more significantly affected than those who are not,” he said.

Milwaukee has been labeled the most segregated city in the country and the worst city for African Americans for a litany of categories; ranking among the worst in homeownership rates, poverty rates, incarceration rates, income rates, and more.

Giron says, lower-income individuals tend to walk more.

Milwaukee Black median household income
The Black median household income in Milwaukee is the lowest in the country. Giron says, lower income individuals tend to walk more.

Consider the median household income for a Black Milwaukeean is $31,052; the worst in the country. It can help explain why in the 53206 ZIP code, 26 percent of residents lack access to a vehicle. This area is home to the intersection of 27th Street, Center Street and Fond du Lac Avenue, one of the top 10 most dangerous corridors in the city.

“Having to walk to grocery stores, different amenities, or their jobs,” Giron said. “Versus people who have more income and are driving around more. We’ve been building our interstates, state highways, straight through these low-income areas and it’s affecting places like this.”

Giron’s study found 85 percent of the drivers in crashes they researched were from a higher income tract than the pedestrian they struck.

“There are more low-income people in the city center and the City of Milwaukee instead of the suburbs where you have people of higher income driving in and out of the city versus the lower income people who may travel locally within their local neighborhoods,” Grion said. “It’s also a drive-through community as well. There are even more drivers you see out here that are traversing this neighborhood.”

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