Census: Wisconsin sees small population gains

MADISON, Wis. - New census numbers show Wisconsin's population grew slightly in the last fiscal year.

The state's population increased by 0.4 percent from July 2016 to July 2017, according to data released in December. Wisconsin Public Radio reports that is the largest uptick in a single year since 2010.

The state now has a total population of 5.8 million and ranks 30th for annual population growth. The numbers also show that much of the growth is the result of children being born in the state.

David Egan-Robertson, a demographer with the University of Wisconsin's Applied Population Laboratory, attributes the increase to fewer people leaving the state.

He said the census estimates that Wisconsin lost about 2,000 people to domestic migration. The state has seen more people leaving than moving in since the Great Recession began in 2007.

"Wisconsin is part of the pattern of the Upper Midwest," Egan-Robertson said. "The states in this area are generally growing quite slowly. A lot of that is due to migration in the country; it's been a long-term pattern for decades. There tends to be more movement out of the Midwest and northeast states into the south and western states."

While the state does typically attract young people to attend college, those residents tend to leave after graduation. But some young professionals do return, Egan-Robertson said.

"There's movement back into the state, particularly for those in their early 30s. So we're actually net-gainers of people in their early 30s and even their late 30s," he said.

"A lot of discussion tends to focus around this idea of `brain drain.' Well, there's also a brain gain that happens as people get older," he added. "Occasionally those do appear in our statistics."

Gov. Scott Walker has proposed a $6.8 million marketing plan to attract young workers from other states and address Wisconsin's worker shortage.


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