Wisconsin Economy Publications

Below is a list of our reports related to Wisconsin economy, in descending order by year published. Explore other topics here and all COWS reports here.

  • In the 20th Century, people from around the world came to Wisconsin and the Midwest, seeking opportunity in the industrial boom. Manufacturing and unions helped create good jobs for many black workers, but discrimination and segregation limited that sharply. When industrial jobs declined, black Midwesterners suffered the most. Over the last 40 years, opportunity and outcomes for black residents in Wisconsin have fallen below national averages. As a result, black Wisconsinites face stubborn barriers and road blocks that many white people don’t even know are there. Racial disparity in Wisconsin is not inevitable, but closing the gap will require a broad focus and multifaceted approach.

    ‘Wisconsin’s Extreme Racial Disparity’ provides a Wisconsin-focused summary to ‘Race in the Heartland‘, which shows the persistence of racial disparities in the Midwest and what can be done about them.

    Wisconsin has the regrettable distinction of ranking among the worst states in the nation for racial inequality. Disparities among black and white residents of our state – spanning poverty, unemployment, educational attainment, and incarceration – have been documented consistently for more than a decade. Although activists and policymakers have increasingly focused on addressing these issues, they remain pressing.

    ‘Race in the Heartland’ and ‘Wisconsin’s Extreme Racial Disparity’ provide a careful historical context and a broadly informed policy framework that are critical to winning greater racial equity throughout this region.

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  • Each year on Labor Day, COWS draws a picture of how working people in Wisconsin are faring. The long report, The State of Working Wisconsin, is released biannually on even-numbered years and looks at the economy comprehensively from a working-family perspective. In odd-numbered years, like 2019, we provide a more abbreviated and focused report, called The State of Working Wisconsin: Facts & Figures.

    On some of the most well-known economic indicators, there is good news for Wisconsin workers. The unemployment rate in the state has been consistently low. The economy is steadily adding jobs. These are important measures for working people’s lives. When jobs are more available not only is it easier to secure a job, it is also easier to get the hours of work you want, to be able to ask for time-off you need, and to make ends meet. This Labor Day, with the memory of the Great Recession of 2007 now fading from memory, workers across Wisconsin have this good news to celebrate.

    Even so, many working families in the state feel stressed and stretched. In this report, then, we provide information on few key long-term trends that are contributing to the stress even in the context of low unemployment. Looking across the last forty years, the challenges working people face are clear. Wage growth has been anemic. Income inequality is reaching new highs. Unions, which have been so critical to supporting workers in this state, are in serious decline. Additionally, state policy, which could be helping to close gaps, is actually exacerbating these trends. From tax changes that reward our highest income families to rejection of health insurance to cover our families in need, policy continues to pave the low-road for our state.

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  • Wisconsin has a current energy spending deficit of $14.4 billion ($14.4 billion in expenditures leaves the state annually). With no substantial in-state fossil fuel resources, reliance on fossil fuels is hurting the Wisconsin economy. Transitioning to in-state energy resources would bring dollars and jobs back to the state of Wisconsin and provide a win-win-win strategy for economic growth, social well-being, and environmental protection. This report was prepared for the Office of Sustainability, La Crosse County, Wisconsin.

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  • Securing strong economic opportunity for Wisconsin’s working families and closing racial and ethnic income disparity requires strong attention to the access and success of students of color at our state’s colleges and universities.

    In this report COWS focuses on college degrees – both the two year associates degrees offered by the 16 colleges of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) and four year bachelor’s degrees offered by colleges throughout the University of Wisconsin System (UWS).

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  • Joel Rogers, Emanuel Ubert, and Anna Walther. State of Working Wisconsin 2018. COWS, 2018.

    Despite job gains, Wisconsin’s job growth is slow relative to the national pace. Wages are still in no way keeping pace with worker productivity. Wisconsin is comparatively weak in more lucrative occupations: professional, scientific, technical, and information. Our manufacturing sector, while growing, is a still significantly smaller than at the beginning of the century. And inequality continues to grow. One in five workers currently holds a poverty-wage job with few benefits. Rural economies are declining. Wisconsin’s black/white disparities still lead the nation.

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  • The UniverCity Alliance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is looking for a new local government partner for the UniverCity Year program for the period of 2018-2021. Could this be your community?

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  • Katya Spear. “Improving Health Outcomes for All Through Local Policy Making”. The Municipality – Your Voice. Your Wisconsin, League of Wisconsin Municipalities, 2018.

    First featured in the March 2018 Community Health issue of The Municipality – Your Voice. Your Wisconsin. Published by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.

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  • In the fourth quarter of 2017, Wisconsin added 12,500 jobs, most of them in October. In contrast to the strong October, in December, Wisconsin actually lost jobs. Still, over the quarter, the state’s job base grew. Growth was driven by private sector gains, with the state adding 15,200 private jobs. The state lost 2,700 public sector jobs across the quarter capping off a very weak year in the public sector. Wisconsin’s ended 2017 with 3,300 fewer public sector jobs than a year ago. Still, as with the quarter, so with the year. Private sector growth meant that the state jobs base grew 1.4 percent: Wisconsin added 40,200 jobs in 2017. The unemployment rate continues to drop slowly across the nation and Wisconsin is not an exception. Unemployment in Wisconsin stands now at 3.0%, significantly below the level of the end of 2016 and at its lowest point since the recession.

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  • Criminalizing hard working families and falling into irrational fear harms all Wisconsin families and the Wisconsin economy. Immigrants are a core part of the Wisconsin economy and contributing to this state through taxes, education, and self-owned businesses. The state should be pursuing ways to welcome and build the skills of this community.

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  • After an inconsistent 2016, Wisconsin started off 2017 with a modest job growth across the first quarter. January through March, the state added 12,800 jobs. The growth was concentrated in January and February and offset job losses of 3700 jobs in March. Over the quarter, private sector creation compensated for the loss of almost 7000 jobs in the public sector. Additionally, the unemployment rate continues to edge down nationally and in Wisconsin. Unemployment in Wisconsin stands now at 3.4%, significantly below the level of the end of 2016.

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