Saturday, December 23, 2017

Wisconsin population growth better in 2017, but still lagging US

It may not have gotten a lot of attention this week, but we got new estimates for 2017 population in all US states from the US Census Bureau. One trend that continued in 2017 was that the largest growth in the country was going south and west.
Idaho was the nation’s fastest-growing state over the last year. Its population increased 2.2 percent to 1.7 million from July 1, 2016, to July 1, 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s national and state population estimates released today.

Following Idaho for the largest percentage increases in population were: Nevada (2.0 percent), Utah (1.9 percent), Washington (1.7 percent), and Florida along with Arizona (1.6 percent)...

States in the South and West continued to lead in population growth. In 2017, 38.0 percent of the nation’s population lived in the South and 23.8 percent lived in the West.

More locally, Wisconsin had a decent uptick in population growth after a stagnant last couple of years. The Census Bureau said Wisconsin grew by 22,566 people (0.4%) in 2017 - more than the 21,645 we added in 2015 and 2016 combined. The Census Bureau says that over 5.795 million people called Wisconsin home, ranking us 20th among the states (between Maryland and Colorado, FYI).

The figures did not break down the figures into individual communities (that report comes out later), but why did Wisconsin have this improved growth? 3/4 of it was due to what is known as “natural” population growth, where there were more births than deaths. And while we continued to lose people to other parts of the country between July 1 2016 and July 1, 2017, it wasn’t nearly as much as in prior years.

(side note, congrats to occasional Funhouse reader Amanda for adding to that birth total on Wednesday).

In comparing Wisconsin's population change to the rest of our Midwestern neighbors, a few other trends of recent years held up. The first was that our neighbors to the west in Minnesota added more than twice as many people as Wisconsin did, outpacing every other state in the Midwest, and was the only state in the region to surpass the U.S. growth rate of 0.72%. The other was that our neighbors to the south keep losing people at an alarming rate, suffering the largest population drop in America.

Population change, Midwest 2017
Minn +51,506 (+0.9%)
Ohio +36,555 (+0.3%)
Ind. +32,811 (+0.5%)
Mich +28,866 (+0.3%)
Wis.+22,566 (+0.4%)
Iowa +14,842 (+0.5%)
Ill. -33,703 (-0.3%)

The comparisons between this statistic and the current NFC North standings are purely coincidental.

Interestingly, Minnesota’s strong population growth may save them from losing a Congressional seat in a few years. The good people at the Election Data Services organization used the new Census figures to update their Congressional projections for the next reapportionment for the House of Representatives , which is a bigger deal now that 2020 is fast approaching. In Minnesota’s case
The state is close to staying even or losing a seat. The short term (one-year) methodology shows Minnesota keeping its 8th seat with only 6,791 people to spare, but the longer term trends both indicate the state would drop down to seven (7) congressional districts in 2020.
By the way, the 2016 version of that report said Wisconsin was also in danger of losing its 8th seat in Congress (and 10th electoral vote for president) if our slow growth in 2015 and 2016 continued for the next 4 years. But the bounce-back in 2017 has put us off the bubble for now.

It's good to hear that Wisconsin had this tick up in population growth, as attracting people and adding population is something that builds upon itself when it comes to looking at the prospects of a state's economic growth. But the negative net migration number should remind us that Wisconsin needs to invest in items that attract that talent and makes individuals decide to live here. That just doesn't include good-paying jobs, but it also involves good infrastructure, strong public schools, and a high quality of life.

And with a bitter cold snap looming, it's a reminder that climate already offers a headwind to Wisconsin and the rest of the Midwest in this population growth stat. Acting like a low-wage, low-service Southern state isn't going to help when people can already head somewhere warmer if that's the type of regressive backwater they want to live in. So maybe we should get back to the ways helped to allow Wisconsin to average growth of nearly 33,000 people a year in the 2000s, instead of the backwards steps we have taken during the Age of Fitzwalkerstan.


  1. We sure need more people here, but that only comes with offers of economic success for all, not just the neoliberal.

    People, no matter where they live, need economic opportunity to have a roof over their heads and pay basic bills like utilities and a car.

    I see it as a long-standing trend, because our economy has worked the way it has, to discourage people from living here. I grew up in Milwaukee at a time of it's peak population circa 1960-70, and jobs were there for lots, only in 1967 they had a revolt, and jobs businesses either were destroyed by neoliberal financial thinking or just left Milwaukee for the suburbs, leaving Milwaukee in a dire situation.

    Smaller cities also lost jobs because businesses either closed or went along with the neoliberal globalistic trend.

    Huge areas--urban and rural--have been destroyed because they are no longer offered the opportunity to sustain a family. This trend started long ago, through Carter, especially Reagan, adapted by Clinton, then amped up by the anarcho-capitalist Tea Party set.

    I truly can't stand the likes of Walker and Fitzgerald; it has wrecked our State. Let's hope our economy can open up to provide all of us, even those lacking degreed "talent," an opportunity at life and moving forward.

  2. Agree on your points, and I am including non-college degree labor in my list of "talent." As I've often,mentioned here, our manufacturing wages are the lowest in the Midwest, and to no surprise, we can't find workers for those jobs because other states pay better.

    And good infrastructure and having quality schools helps all types of communities. We used to believe in those things here.

  3. I'm guessing most of the population gains are due to people leaving Illinois that had an estimated loss of almost -34000 people for the year. It would be interesting to view the numbers if IL residents moving in were removed to see what the actual growth stats would look like. Is it possible that growth without IL residents crossing the border would be flat? It could mean that most areas might actually be losing population. The only counties that really benefit from people moving across the border are mainly those at the very bottom of the state, so most county growth rates might be stale. Wisconsin might be gaining more wealthy residents but since most of the population isn't wealthy, it would make sense growth rates in MN would be significantly higher. talks about the state having the largest number of millionaires on record after predictions that wealth would permanently leave the state when tax rates on the states richest were predicted to leave. It could be true there would be even more had the higher tax rate not been passed but maybe the increased funding drew more to the state also. The number or millionaires living in the state was 6433 in 2012, dropped to 5427 in 2013 after the tax change, and was back to 6892 for 2015(last year of records available). So it's possible high service states can also attract millionaires, possibly just a different type of them.

  4. There are several points I'd like to refute in Jake's article. 1. Climate change will likely help the Midwest and WI. While you can say that people leave to go south for the warm winters, it is also unbearably hot in the southern summer. While in WI climate changes is moderating our winters, extending the growing season, and increasing rainfall. As frequent drought and deadly heat waves become more frequent in the south and west then WI with its moderate climate and great lakes will be more attractive.

    2. Most of the population increase in the early 2000's was due to international immigration (both legal & illegal) - rather than democratic governance as you've suggested. Recent right-wing policies have hit Latinos particularly hard and have resulted in serious worker shortages in dairy farming and light manufacturing. Rural and northern WI are especially hurt by the loss of Latino immigration - which was the one demographic moving into these areas. Only imigration reform with a path to citizenship, increased visas, and guest worker programs can help turn the tide on population growth in WI. But, this is less of a state governance issue than a federal one. But voters in rural areas of the Midwest are largely responsible for voting for candidates hostile to immigration. So, in a way we are voting for the death of our small towns rather than a prosperous future. Sometimes You get what you vote for - and that's not so pretty.