New Data Shows Wisconsin Youth Population Declining as 65+ Population Grows
MADISON – Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) – the combined state chamber and manufacturers’ association – called on lawmakers to make the state more economically competitive and attractive to workers following the release of data showing the well-known workforce shortage is likely to get worse.
According to a new report, Wisconsin’s Demographic Dilemma, the state’s median age is 40.1 years. Wisconsin is one of only 14 states where the median age is over 40 – the national median is 38.8. The report was published by WMC Foundation, an affiliate of WMC.
In addition to being one of the oldest states in the country, the situation is not improving. Wisconsin’s population under the age of five shrunk by 10.1 percent from 2010 to 2020, while the population of people ages 65-84 has expanded by 41.7 percent.
The persistent workforce shortage is being driven by a population gap that has existed for many years. Simply, there are not enough people living in Wisconsin to fill all the available jobs now and in the future. As the report explains, Wisconsin must attract more people into its borders because the state is not naturally growing the population needed to match economic growth.
“Without growing our population, we cannot grow our economy,” said WMC Senior Director of Workforce, Education & Employment Policy Rachel Ver Velde. “To do so, we must enact public policies that attract people to our state. That means we need to reform our tax code to be competitive with our neighbors, expand and invest in choice and charter schools that are popular with families, and commit to a talent attraction campaign that showcases why Wisconsin is a great place to live.”
The WMC Foundation report details the fact that Wisconsin’s population has shrunk by roughly 1,200 people over the last three years. This is due to more people dying in the state than being born from 2020 to 2022 and domestic out-migration of more than 11,000 people over the same period. The one bright spot is that international immigration has added a net of roughly 11,500 over the last three years.
“We need to recruit more people to move to Wisconsin, but we also need to get people off the sidelines and back into the workforce,” added Ver Velde. “Our state’s labor force participation rate is at a historic low. We hope lawmakers will use this opportunity to incentivize work and get people back into the labor force once again.”
Following the release of this new data, WMC called on lawmakers to implement numerous reforms that would attract and retain a talented workforce:
- Reduce and flatten the state’s income tax to be more competitive with neighboring states
- Expand education options for families by investing more in choice and charter schools
- Commit to a robust and targeted talent attraction campaign to grow our working-age population
- Reform the state’s welfare and unemployment programs to incentivize work
- Create incentives for businesses who offer employer-based childcare
- Remove bureaucratic barriers to entry for individuals not currently in the workforce.