Wisconsin Has Become Slow-Growth State

With lower birth rate, less immigration, more out-migration, state trails most in population growth.

By , WisContext - Jul 21st, 2018 02:05 pm

The Great Recession disrupted not only economic and employment patterns, but demographic trends as well. Wisconsin saw stagnation in population growth in the post-recession 2010s, but a closer look at year-to-year shifts in population change reveals that the state may be looking forward to population increases — and accompanying economic growth.

Demographers study how human populations change over time, a process which can be broken down into several elements: the number of people born, the number who have died, and the number who have moved in and out of a place. The difference between births and deaths in a given year is known as natural increase — or decrease, if there are more deaths than births. The difference between the number of people who move in and who move out is called net migration. Added together, natural increase/decrease and net migration equal population change for the state. Each of these forces of change can vary in response to social and economic trends.

Births in the United States, peaking near 4.3 million annually in 2006-2008, fell below 4 million in 2010 and have not exceeded that level since. At the same time, deaths topped 2.5 million per year for the first time in 2011 and reached 2.7 million in 2015. As a result, the nation’s annual population growth due to natural increase declined by one-third, from 1,893,000 people in 2007 to 1,266,000 in 2015.

International immigration also fell from an annual average of 1,050,000 people in the pre-Recession years of 2004-2006 to an average of 890,000 people per year in 2011-2013, a 15 percent decline.  However, immigration levels rebounded to greater than 1,000,000 annually by the mid 2010s.

Within these national shifts, Wisconsin tends to trail other states in population growth. The state generally has an older population, with a median age in 2016 of 39.3, compared to 37.9 for the U.S. as a whole. At the same time, Wisconsin receives fewer international migrants than other states — Wisconsin is home to 1.8 percent of the nation’s residents, but averages only 0.7 percent of its total immigrants.

Overall, Wisconsin’s population has remained fairly stable in the 2010s. Its total population change has been the twelfth lowest in percentage terms among all 50 states and the District of Columbia between 2011 and 2017.


A primary factor in Wisconsin’s modest growth rate in the decade is that the state has experienced a steady decline in its natural increase since 2007, the first year of the Great Recession. From its peak of 26,640 that year, the state’s natural increase has fallen 44 percent, to 14,810 in 2016. Wisconsin’s natural increase is ranked twenty-second among the 50 states and Washington, D.C. in the period between 2010 and 2017.


Negative migration within the U.S. has also been detrimental to Wisconsin’s population growth in the 2010s. The state is far from alone as a net loser of domestic migrants, though, as 19 others have experienced greater rates of out-migration than Wisconsin in the decade so far.


However, individual years within the 2010s paint a different picture. Wisconsin’s population change increased sharply in 2017 compared to prior years, exceeding 20,000 for the first time since 2010.

Looking at the pattern of individual years, the domestic out-migration situation has been improving. Wisconsin’s domestic net migration peaked at a population loss of more than 15,000 in 2015, but lessened to just about -2,000 in 2017. In addition, the number of international immigrants per year has grown slightly, adding to the state’s overall population gain.


If the domestic inflow and outflow of migrants balance out by 2020, Wisconsin should see annual population gains closer to 25,000 for the remainder of this decade, a considerable improvement over the years affected by the Great Recession.

How Births, Deaths And Moving Shaped Wisconsin’s Post-Recession Population was originally published on WisContext which produced the article in a partnership between Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television and Cooperative Extension.

Categories: WisContext

8 thoughts on “Wisconsin Has Become Slow-Growth State”

  1. Ron Mexico says:

    I’d rather we stay stagnate than grow another million people. There is enough people in this state, do we really want to become New Jersey with a state density of 1,300 people per square mile, let’s keep Wisconsin at 106/mi. Over population just brings more problems. We’re already at 6 Million people(including illegals), let’s keep it that way.

  2. TransitRider says:

    Wisconsin has lots of room to accommodate new residents.

    Do the math…

    Adding 1 million new residents (or even 50 million) would still leave Wisconsin with fewer people per square mile than New Jersey.

  3. Troll says:

    Did n’T. California only grow a 1,000 jobs last month. It has plenty of immigrants and a higher birth rate. It also has one quarter of all food stamp recipients. It is a zombie state. A healthy one percent and heavy welfare staate.

  4. Javik says:

    well you are a disgusting human being Ron Mexico – would like to nominate you for deportation

  5. Terry says:

    Crumbling Scott-hole filled roads, poverty rates are at 30 year highs in Wisconsin,collapsing infrastructure, massive DOT debt, defunded crumbling schools, high taxes, crazy far right-wing extremist republican laws on all social issues, slave wages, no benefits, no functioning healthcare system, alcoholics and drunkards everywhere, dirty water and polluted air, most corrupt state government in the USA lorded over by a crooked Career Politician with a high school diploma who has never worked a single day in the private sector but instead has been mooching off taxpayers and Big Government for 28 straight years and just handed 4.5 Billion of our taxes to a low wage CHINESE company all while dissing iconic American companies like Harley Davidson while staying silent as Trump attacks our farmers with trade wars and tariffs thus appeasing and enabling Trumpty Dumpty’s fascism and UNAMERICAN authoritarianism. Of course nobody wants to live, invest or raise a family in this regressive Third World slave wage toilet bowl that Career Politician Scott Walker and republicans turned the once proud state of Wisconsin into!

    Dump Walker 2018
    Dump ALL republicans 2018

  6. LenaTaylorNeedsToResign says:

    Terry’s that stoner pothead at a party you just can’t wait to get away from, who just repeats the same thing over and over and over because that’s all that cycles endlessly in his fried drug-brain. I love it!! Keep smokin’ up, kiddo. The magical herb is doing great things for you.

  7. PMD says:

    Yes because there is so much variance in your incessant Walker cheerleading. Pot, meet kettle.

  8. Terry says:

    @ScottWalkerNeedsToResign (aka WashCoRepug who changed his name out of humiliation after Dallet crushed that fat guy Walker handpicked)
    You’re like the angry bitter old drunkard at the party that has no point to make, no meaningful response so instead you just start making specious ad hominem attacks and baseless personal insults. I’ll take the Pepsi challenge with my life vs yours anyday! Keep chugging that rot-gut liquor!

    Dump Walker 2018

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