2017 | Week of March 20 | #1195
The Family Prosperity Initiative is a project of the American Conservative Union. It is based on the idea that communities, states and nations are only as strong as the married dad-and-mom families that make up these entities. Two excellent economists use their experience and expertise to analyze data—lots of data—to create an annual index ranking all 50 states as to how well off their families are. This is an incredible tool, a phenomenal tool for those interested in actually improving a state. The bottom line is as the family, so the state.
So how is Wisconsin doing? Well, we moved up some from last year. But the areas that are dragging us down are so critical that I firmly believe if they are not addressed in meaningful ways very soon, our overall ranking will fall. In both 2016 and this year, Wisconsin is low in entrepreneurship—meaning business startups. We were 50th in 2016 and 47th this year, again movement in the right direction. I believe some of the changes in business laws over the past 6 years are beginning to take effect in positive ways.
In three other areas, Wisconsin is actually worse in 2017 than we were in 2016—and these are significant areas: marriage, fertility and out-migration. In the last 20 years or so, our marriage rate has plummeted 40%. On the FPI, in 2017 we rank 44th. We simply aren’t forming married men and women families, which is the absolute bedrock of every society. When a state experiences a marriage dearth, eventually it will experience major problems in just about every other area.
The fertility issue is likewise a serious concern. In the 2017 FPI, we rank 28th. Here’s the reality. Wisconsin has been below the replacement birth rate of 2.1 children per woman for over 40 years. Eventually that catches up. Starkly stated, we are experiencing a demographic winter. The Governor keeps saying he needs workers to fill jobs. The reality is we don’t have the people to fill those jobs. We haven’t had enough babies and in addition to not having enough babies, we’ve aborted over 500,000 babies in that same 40 years. To fix the workforce problem, we must fix the fertility problem.
Out-migration refers to the number of people leaving the state. In the 2017 FPI, we rank 30th. Since 2006, we’ve had more people leaving Wisconsin than moving to Wisconsin each year. People leave for many reasons, not the least of which is the weather. However, they also frequently leave for economic reasons, such as lower taxes. Adding to this problem is who is leaving. The average person leaving is 45 or older, makes over $100,000, and is married with children. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see these are exactly the type of people we need to keep in our state.
Here’s another thing to keep in mind about the Family Prosperity Index. This year, the economists added a Trend Index—and overall it shows the country is trending negatively, which means the states are being ranked around a worsening trend.
So what do we do with this news? First, understand the truth and then we roll up our sleeves. Individual families, churches and communities can do much to start reversing the marriage and fertility issues. We need to champion marriage and child-bearing. Elected officials responsible for taxation need to do more to relieve the tax burden, taking away one reason people leave our state. Most of all, we must truly understand that as the family goes, so goes the state. That’s not just a quip; it’s the very future of Wisconsin.
For Wisconsin Family Council, I’m Julaine Appling, reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”