Wisconsin lacks both population growth and economic growth, trends that are related and worrisome and should be the focus of state policymakers. A recent indicator comes from preliminary data from the…
Wisconsin is missing in population growth and economic growth, trends that are related and worrisome and should be the focus of state policy makers.
A recent indicator comes from preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, which shows Wisconsin’s economic growth in 2021 was among the slowest in the country and lagging behind all neighboring states.
Wisconsin’s real gross domestic product grew 3.8% from 2020 to 2021, the 10th slowest rate in the nation. That’s the slowest growth among neighboring states, a group led by Indiana’s 6.9% growth. Across the Midwest region, only North Dakota, at 2.1%, had a slower growth rate than Wisconsin in 2021.
The 3.8% growth rate was Wisconsin’s strongest for a single year since 1999, but that’s because 2021 was a rebound from the devastating pandemic-related shutdowns of 2020. Wisconsin’s poor economic performance State relative to other states, especially Midwestern states, is a major concern.
Now let’s move on to the disturbing lack of population growth in the state. From 2010 to 2020, Wisconsin’s population grew by only 3.6%, well below the national population growth rate of 7.4%. Utah recorded the highest population growth rate of the decade, at 18.4%. Wisconsin’s population growth for the decade ranked 35th.
New data from the US Census Bureau is also not encouraging. Milwaukee County’s population decreased by 10,090 in 2021. As a state, Wisconsin’s population grew by only 3,585 or 0.06%, ranking it 31st in the nation. Primarily due to the sharp decline in population in Milwaukee County, the Milwaukee metro area saw its population drop by 7,111 or 0.45%, ranking 326th out of 384 metro areas nationwide.
Since Milwaukee is the largest city and metropolitan area in the state, it is the economic anchor and engine of the state. Without significant population growth, the region will not have the workforce needed to grow businesses in the region. And population growth is needed to provide more consumers to support businesses.
Without significant population and economic growth in the greater region of the state, there will be no significant population and economic growth for the State of Wisconsin as a whole. It’s so simple.
State policy makers need to pay more attention to the state’s lack of population growth as a necessity to promote economic growth.
Wisconsin needs to attract more people to live here to grow its economy. This means that the state must be welcoming and attractive to all types of people. It also means we need to have a business-friendly environment with relatively low taxes and reasonable regulation so that businesses can thrive here and provide employment opportunities that attract people. But we also need to provide a high quality of life with schools, parks, transportation systems and other amenities, all of which cost money.
In this gubernatorial year, we need to hear more ideas from the candidates about what they will do to attract more people and grow the state’s population. Our economic growth depends on it.