A Game-Changing Project

2016 | Week of March 7 | #1140

At this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC, held last week in Washington, D.C., The Family Prosperity Index and Initiative was publicly launched. I was honored to be part of this effort.

The Family Prosperity Index is ground-breaking and game-changing. The Family Prosperity Index (FPI) provides federal, state, and local policymakers—as well as civic leaders and community-minded citizens—the roadmap needed for the development of economic and social policies that improve the wellbeing and prosperity of American families and the communities in which they live. No other measure provides more credible and comprehensive insights into how the economy affects families, and how families affect the economy.

Several years ago I gave a speech I entitled “As the Family, So the State.” My goal was to show that the so-called “social issues” are inextricably linked to the fiscal issues, and vice versa. To have a strong Wisconsin and a strong America, we must have strong families. Social science research clearly shows that the traditional nuclear family, headed by married men and women, is the best wealth-producing institution we have. It’s the engine that runs the economic train.

What I lacked in that presentation was the sophisticated analysis that shows how those social issues are connected to the economic issues. But we have both the datda and the analysis now.

The Family Prosperity Index is hierarchical in nature and consists of 6 major indexes weighted equally, with each major index having 5 sub-indexes, also weighted equally. The 6 major indexes are economics, demographics, family self-sufficiency, family structure, family culture, and family health. Each sub-index consists of one or more variables, meaning there are 57 variables. Each state is ranked based on the index number it receives after all this amazing data is crunched. The ranking tells us the relative prosperity of the state based on the prosperity of the families in the state.

In the 2016 overall Family Prosperity Index, Wisconsin ranks 18 out of the 50 states. Between 2012 and 2015, we ranked from a low of 21 to a high of 16. Our 2016 index is 5.05 out of 10. For comparison, our neighboring states look like this:  Minnesota and Iowa both rank higher than Wisconsin, with Minnesota at 8 and Iowa at 9.  Illinois and Michigan rank lower, with Illinois at 21st and Michigan at 36.

If you drill down into the sub-indexes and their variables, you can see where Wisconsin is strong and where we are weak. For example our lowest index is in the demographics area, where we rank 34. The data shows that we are quite low in the fertility of women ages 15 to 44. This measure has to do with how many babies we are having or not having. Fertility is directly related to our ability to ensure future workers and taxpayers. It’s also tied into whether we have an aging or a younger population. As it turns out Wisconsin has an aging population with fewer young people to economically support the older people.

Wisconsin’s next lowest area is economics, where in 2015 we ranked 32nd. One of the sub-indexes in this major index is the percentage of Wisconsin’s personal income that comes from the private sector rather than the public sector. As it turns out, the bigger the private sector, the greater per-household personal income. Wisconsin in 2014 had just under 72% of household income coming from the private sector, giving us a ranking of 16—which is a good thing. But in the area of entrepreneurship, we have a 2016 ranking of 50. Entrepreneurship is about job creation. If we don’t have job creation, we don’t have jobs for families, which obviously dramatically impacts their household income.

Fundamentally this Index is about the well-being of Wisconsin’s best natural resource—her traditional families and the individuals in those families.  At long last, we have the data to show that truly as the family, so the state.

This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

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