Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance
Press Release

As Students Return, State Gets Report Card

Annual WISTAX-CWI Study Analyzes Wisconsin’s Competitive Position

By - Sep 5th, 2014 09:18 am

MADISON—As schools open and thoughts return to tests and grades, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) has released the only “report card” that annually benchmarks the state’s performance.  Among the report’s findings, employment has grown steadily since 2010 and the unemployment rate is down about two points since peaking in 2009.  WISTAX is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to public policy research and citizen education since 1932.

On other economic measures, the WISTAX report notes that:

  • Wisconsin manufacturing jobs as a share of total employment increased for the third straight year, reaching 16.4% in 2013.  That figure was still 0.8 points below pre-recession levels.
  • For the five years ending in 2013, per capita personal income growth has outpaced the U.S. (11.4% vs. 9.0%) and closed the gap by which the state has long trailed the U.S. to 3.1% ($43,149 vs. $44,543).
  • Private firm creation was up 1.1% in 2012 after growing 1.6% in 2011, the first back-to-back years of increase since 2004-05.  The number of private businesses now equal levels reported five years earlier.

These economic indicators are among 33 performance measures contained in Measuring Success: Benchmarks for a Competitive Wisconsin (Benchmarks), the only assessment of the state’s competitive position.  WISTAX has prepared the report card annually for Competitive Wisconsin, Inc (CWI) since 1998.  CWI is a nonpartisan consortium of statewide leaders on business, labor, education, and agriculture.

Other trends examined in Benchmarks compare workforce excellence, quality of life, business climate, government performance, and environmental conditions with surrounding states and the nation.

On workforce excellence, WISTAX found that:

  • High school graduation rates for entering ninth graders are higher here (86.2%) than nationally (70.1%) and surpass rates in all four surrounding states.
  • Wisconsin produces more PhD’s per million residents in science, technology, engineering, and math than the country (88.0 vs. 79.6) and Minnesota.  However, it trails Illinois and Michigan slightly, and Iowa (125.2) by a larger margin.
  • Average college entrance exam scores reported for 2013 are about 7% higher here than nationally.

Quality of life has long been a competitive advantage for the Badger state, and on many of the relevant measures that remains true:

  • Health insurance coverage remains higher in Wisconsin than in the U.S. and in the region (save Minnesota).
  • Wisconsin’s violent crime rate per 100,000 residents (281) was well below the U.S., though it was up from 250 in 2011.
  • Home ownership in Wisconsin remains higher here than the U.S. average (68.5% vs. 65.1%), but trails Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota.

The state’s business climate has long been a part of debate in Wisconsin. The Benchmarks report analyzed this issue, as well:

  • Capital availability for firm start-ups and expansions has long been a shortcoming.  Wisconsin’s disbursement of venture capital in 2013 ($12.75 per worker) was lower than the nation’s ($215.34) and the four surrounding states’, where rates ranged from $14.74 per worker in Iowa to $96.85 in Minnesota.
  • As a share of state output, Wisconsin’s investment in R&D per worker (2.21%) lags the nation (2.86%) and the surrounding states, except Iowa (2.15%).
  • The number of Wisconsin patents per million residents (436) has increased over the past five years but still trails the U.S. (467), as well as Michigan and Minnesota. Wisconsin has an edge over Illinois and Iowa.

To view the full report, go to http://www.competitivewi.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Benchmarks14_final.pdf. Printed copies of the 54-page report, Measuring Success: Benchmarks for a Competitive Wisconsin 2014, are available directly from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance for $3.95 (plus tax and shipping) with discounts for WISTAX members and donors.  Visit www.wistax.org; email wistax@wistax.org; write WISTAX at 401 North Lawn Avenue, Madison, WI 53704-5033; or phone 608.241.9789.

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