We are going to return to a topic that this column broached several weeks ago because policymakers in Madison fail to appreciate the severity of what is to come. Wisconsin is losing population. This is happening in a time of national population growth and the negative consequences will be unavoidable. The time to act is now.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the United States added 1.8 million, or 0.6%, people between 2020 and 2022. Over the same period, Wisconsin lost 3,372 people, or 0.06%, of its population. After counting all of the people who moved out of the state and subtracting all of the people who moved into the state, Wisconsin’s population is declining despite the fact that the nation, as a whole, is gaining population.
A deeper look into the data reveals an even more dire situation. In the prime working years between 25 and 59 years old, Wisconsin lost nearly 39,000, or 1.5%, of its people. This is the age group that fills jobs, pays the most taxes, and spends the most on things like houses, vehicles, groceries, and the rest that fuels the consumer economy. Even worse, men are leaving the state at a rate faster than women. Given that on average more men participate in the labor force than women, that means that the decline in the available labor force is more pronounced than the overall number suggests.
It gets worse. Coming up behind those working adults, Wisconsin’s population is declining even faster. Between the ages of birth and 19 years old, Wisconsin lost almost 41,000, or 2.8%, of its people. That means that there will be fewer people entering the workforce to replace those exiting.
The only age group that is increasing in Wisconsin is at the top of the age groups. Wisconsin gained almost 67,000, or a whopping 4.6%, people above the age of 60. This age group tends to be at the end of their working career and are drawing down their consumption as they enjoy their well-earned silver years.
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