MADISON (WKOW) – A report released Wednesday found that Wisconsin’s population over the past decade has grown at a slower rate than any other 10-year period on record.
Forward scan found Wisconsin’s population grew 3.6% between 2010 and 2020. During the previous decade, the state’s population grew 6.0%. Between 1990 and 2000, the state experienced a population growth of 9.4%.
Group chief Dale Knapp said the main driver behind the slowing growth was falling birth rates. Over the past decade, the state’s population under the age of 18 has fallen 4.3 percent.
“And if you think about it, that under-18 population is primarily, or a large part of, our workforce in 15 to 20 years,” Knapp said.
Knapp said that dating back to 2007, the state had registered fewer births than the previous year in all but one of the years.
“It has a lot to do with, really, it sounds like economic uncertainty, whether it’s child care, good jobs,” Knapp said.
The childcare challenge has only been exacerbated by the continued labor shortage. Donna Jost, who runs the Early Learning Campus at Madison College, described a cycle where a shortage of workers is forcing some child care providers to close.
Other centers need to increase salaries to hire or retain staff. In turn, this increases the rates charged by providers – and expensive child care services deter young couples from having children, which impacts workforce projections for decades to come.
“It’s absolutely a perpetual cycle that feeds on itself and has really reached crisis proportions at this point,” Jost said.
Jost said Madison College hoped the $ 2.9 million it was receiving in state grants would help attract and keep a new wave of child care workers. The grant comes from money Wisconsin received under the American Rescue Plan Act.
Jost said the money would help cover tuition fees for associate’s courses and one-year certification courses. She added that this would allow the college to take classes on the road to small communities outside of Madison.
Jost said child care providers are in more demand than ever before, as many adults wait longer to have children. Jost added that their parents are then older and less likely to take on full-time childcare duties while parents are at work – or those grandparents may be working later in life than previous generations. .
“So even though the population numbers and the number of births have gone down, the need for care has actually gone up,” Jost said. “Particularly regulated care.”
Knapp said another challenge for the state will be to improve its perception among young adults. While the state in previous decades had been successful in attracting young families from other states, those same demographics saw their migration rates stagnate or decline.
As for the role of legal immigration to the United States, Knapp said it was difficult to quantify how much of this explained the slowing population growth.