10 May 2018

Take that, Governor Walker!

On the left (literally and figuratively), Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton.  In the opposite corner (politically), Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.  They each took office in 2010 in demographically-similar states; their performance since that time has been analyzed in detail by David Cooper (Georgetown University) and published by the Economic Policy Institute.  Herewith a summary -
Since the 2010 election of Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Governor Mark Dayton in Minnesota, lawmakers in these two neighboring states have enacted vastly different policy agendas. Governor Walker and the Wisconsin state legislature have pursued a highly conservative agenda centered on cutting taxes, shrinking government, and weakening unions. In contrast, Minnesota under Governor Dayton has enacted a slate of progressive priorities: raising the minimum wage, strengthening safety net programs and labor standards, and boosting public investments in infrastructure and education, financed through higher taxes (largely on the wealthy).

Because of the proximity and many similarities of these two states, comparing economic performance in the Badger State (WI) versus the Gopher State (MN) provides a compelling case study for assessing which agenda leads to better outcomes for working people and their families. Now, seven years removed from when each governor took office, there is ample data to assess which state’s economy—and by extension, which set of policies—delivered more for the welfare of its residents. The results could not be more clear: by virtually every available measure, Minnesota’s recovery has outperformed Wisconsin’s...

Key findings include:
  • Job growth since December 2010 has been markedly stronger in Minnesota than Wisconsin, with Minnesota experiencing 11.0 percent growth in total nonfarm employment, compared with only 7.9 percent growth in Wisconsin. Minnesota’s job growth was better than Wisconsin’s in the overall private sector (12.5 percent vs. 9.7 percent) and in higher-wage industries, such as construction (38.6 percent vs. 26.0 percent) and education and health care (17.3 percent vs. 11.0 percent).
  • From 2010 to 2017, wages grew faster in Minnesota than in Wisconsin at every decile in the wage distribution. Low-wage workers experienced much stronger growth in Minnesota than Wisconsin, with inflation-adjusted wages at the 10th and 20th percentile rising by 8.6 percent and 9.7 percent, respectively, in Minnesota vs. 6.3 percent and 6.4 percent in Wisconsin.
  • Gender wage gaps also shrank more in Minnesota than in Wisconsin. From 2010 to 2017, women’s median wage as a share of men’s median wage rose by 3.0 percentage points in Minnesota, and by 1.5 percentage points in Wisconsin.
  • Median household income in Minnesota grew by 7.2 percent from 2010 to 2016. In Wisconsin, it grew by 5.1 percent over the same period. Median family income exhibited a similar pattern, growing 8.5 percent in Minnesota compared with 6.4 percent in Wisconsin.
  • Minnesota made greater progress than Wisconsin in reducing overall poverty, child poverty, and poverty as measured under the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure. As of 2016, the overall poverty rate in Wisconsin as measured in the American Community Survey (11.8 percent) was still roughly as high as the poverty rate in Minnesota at its peak in the wake of the Great Recession (11.9 percent, in 2011).
  • Minnesota residents were more likely to have health insurance than their counterparts in Wisconsin, with stronger insurance take-up of both public and private health insurance since 2010.
  • From 2010 to 2017, Minnesota has had stronger overall economic growth (12.8 percent vs. 10.1 percent), stronger growth per worker (3.4 percent vs. 2.7 percent), and stronger population growth (5.1 percent vs. 1.9 percent) than Wisconsin. In fact, over the whole period—as well as in the most recent year—more people have been moving out of Wisconsin to other states than have been moving in from elsewhere in the U.S. The same is not true of Minnesota.
Way more information, with charts, in this longread.  Kudos to my old friend and schoolmate, Mark Dayton.

Photo via Urban Milwaukee.


  1. These are all things that Walker and Republicans care nothing about so it doesn't matter to them if Minnesota has done better. They do care about the 1% making and keeping more money. I'm sure Wisconsin is ahead in that category.

  2. I would like to add a couple of links to the discussion:

    Please be aware that there are hit pieces on both sides of the coin, and that the "experiment" results are pretty ambiguous.
    Considering that spending policies work great untill a dependant class develops, and money gets tight I am surprised that Minesota is not doing all that much better.

    1. Excellent. Thank you for providing that counterpoint to the initial data. This will be interesting to follow moving forward.

  3. Oh please, a Sociology Professor from Georgetown finds that Republican policies are less effective than Democratic policies (in other news, dog bites post person). It might even be true, but why would you believe it given the source? If the Heritage Foundation repeated the study, then you'd have something.

    1. "It might even be true, but why would you believe it..."

      An odd phrasing. :-)


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