The president claims our nation is “full.”
Wisconsin’s prime working-age population fell in every county except Dane and Eau Claire from 2007 to 2017, according to an analysis of Census data by the Economic Innovation Group. The same is true for 80% of counties across America, which now have fewer residents ages 25 to 54 than a decade ago.
The Wisconsin Counties Association released a similar report last week, warning that Wisconsin doesn’t have enough young people to replace retiring baby boomers over the next 15 years. The study, by Dale Knapp of WCA’s Forward Analytics research arm, found that from 2010 to 2015 “the state lost population among key workforce groups, with the most troubling being the net outmigration of young families, a group that Wisconsin typically attracted.”
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Wisconsin had 1.75 residents under age 16 for every resident 50 to 64 years in 1990, fostering an expanding workforce. But by 2000, that figure was down to 1.42. And as of 2017, it was 0.87, indicating a shrinking labor pool.
Wisconsin added more than 40,000 children from net migration between 2000 to 2005, and from 2005 to 2010. But from 2010 to 2015, that positive number was less than 10,000.
Moreover, Wisconsin experienced a net loss from 2010 to 2015 of 30,000 adults in their 20s, the largest decline in modern state history. Population also declined among people in their 30s, 40s and 50s.
“For Wisconsin to position itself for future success, we must find ways to keep the people we have as well as bring people back into our state,” according to the WCA report.
Immigration is part of the solution, too, Knapp agreed Tuesday.
Federal immigration policy mostly benefits booming metro areas while failing the rest of the nation, including the Midwest, the Economic Innovation Group convincingly contends. It proposes more legal immigration of skilled immigrants specifically to fill workforce needs in middle America.
“A new program of place-based visas — let’s call them Heartland Visas — could become a powerful economic development tool for communities facing the consequences of demographic stagnation, but not content to simply manage decline,” the EIG wrote in its report.
President Donald Trump went off script at this year’s State of the Union speech, declaring he wanted people “to come into our country in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally.”
We hope Trump was serious about increasing legal immigration, because his administration has repeatedly tried to severely restrict it.
Wisconsin has lots of space and dire need for more skilled and entrepreneurial workers to fill jobs and keep our economy strong.