Wisconsin 2018: a shift toward the Democrats, but not a uniform one

In a recent article for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Craig Gilbert described how Scott Walker’s 2018 election loss was the result of declining support across all kinds of populous villages and cities in Wisconsin.[1] Walker averaged a 10% decline in places with at least 30,000 people, a 9% decline in places with 10,000 to 30,000, a 6% decline in places with 5,000 to 10,000, and a 3% decline in places with 2,000 to 5,000 residents.

Things improved for Walker in Wisconsin’s numerous small communities. His performance fell by just 0.6% in municipalities with 1,000 to 2,000, and he actually improved over 2014 in communities with less than 1,000 residents.

The overall trend is shown in the graph below.

Even though Walker beat his 2014 performance in over 40% of Wisconsin communities, these places only represent 16% of the state’s adult citizens.

An uneven Democratic wave

I divide the state’s communities into 6 categories based on their shift between the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections.[2]

  1. FLIP BLUE: 5 communities turned blue in 2016 (pop. 17,000).
  2. FLIP RED: 543 communities turned red (pop. 847,000).
  3. TRUMP ENTHUSIASTIC: 977 communities voted for Romney and Trump, and gave Trump an even larger victory (pop. 1,631,000)
  4. TRUMP SKEPTICAL: 85 communities voted for Romney and Trump, but gave Trump a narrower victory (pop. 700,000).
  5. CLINTON ENTHUSIASTIC: 46 communities voted for Obama and Clinton, and gave Clinton an even larger victory (pop. 582,000).
  6. CLINTON SKEPTICAL: 213 communities voted for Obama and Clinton, but gave Clinton a narrower victory (pop. 1,937,000).

Clinton Enthusiastic places include Madison and some of the mostly-wealthy Madison and Milwaukee suburbs. Clinton Skeptical areas include the more peripheral Madison-area suburbs as well as some of the traditional northwestern Democratic strongholds. The only two places of any size which flipped blue are River Falls and Hudson–both located in the St. Paul suburbs.

Communities which flipped red are strewn across the western half of the state with concentrations in the southwestern Driftless Area as well as the northwestern Lake Superior coastal counties of Douglas, Bayfield, and Ashland. Trump Enthusiastic areas cover most of the remaining rural northern half of the state. Trump Skeptical areas are predominantly located outside of Milwaukee in suburban Waukesha and Ozaukee counties.

2018 was a Democratic wave year, and Evers improved over Mary Burke’s margin in every type of community. However, the 2012-2016 shifts described above still had enduring consequences for the 2018 gubernatorial race.

Summarizing the entire vote in each category reveals that Walker won the vote in communities which flipped red in 2016 while Evers narrowly won in places which flipped blue. But the largest and most notable shifts relative to 2014 occurred in Clinton Enthusiastic and Trump Skeptical places, which shifted 13% and 12% toward the Democrats, respectively. These categories represent the two partisan poles of the state. Evers won Clinton Enthusiastic places by 47%; he lost Trump Skeptical places by 29%. But the trend in each place was nearly identical–a double-digit swing toward the Democrats.

In other words, the areas which shifted the most away from the Republican candidate in 2016 were the most Republican parts of the state. Communities which were the most supportive of the pre-Trump Republican Party were the least satisfied with Trump. At least to some extent, that dissatisfaction carried over to 2018. Likewise, support for the Democrats only intensified in communities which were already enthusiastic about Clinton.

2018 governor’s vote trends by category

MCD count Population % of Pop. Evers’ margin Clinton’s margin Burke’s margin Shift from 2016 Shift from 2014
Clinton Enthusiastic 46 582086 10.2 47.2 45.8 34.4 1.5 12.8
Clinton Skeptical 213 1937002 33.9 29.8 25.6 23.2 4.1 6.6
Flip Blue 5 17447 0.3 0.2 1.2 -9.0 -1.1 9.2
Flip Red 543 847386 14.8 -6.0 -11.8 -7.2 5.7 1.1
Trump Enthusiastic 977 1630848 28.5 -27.8 -29.3 -31.1 1.6 3.3
Trump Skeptical 85 700210 12.3 -29.2 -22.8 -41.1 -6.4 11.9

Most of Wisconsin’s wards (52%) experienced flip-flopping trends between the last two races for president and governor. They voted more for Trump than for Romney, but supported Evers more than Burke. Twenty-nine percent of wards shifted in a Republican direction each time. Nineteen percent of wards moved toward both Clinton and Evers. Virtually nowhere moved Democratic in presidential voting and Republican in gubernatorial races.

These divisions have a strong geographic component. Imagine a diagonal line stretching across the state from Green Bay to where the Wisconsin River meets the Mississippi. Trump/Walker trending places are strongly concentrated north of that line.

Clinton/Evers places, by contrast, are mostly south of that line. They include Madison and some suburbs, Milwaukee’s suburbs (but not the city itself), and a few communities in the Fox Valley. A handful of more rural population centers in the northern and western parts of the state are also trending Democratic. Most notably, Democrats have been gaining ground consistently in the Wisconsin suburbs of St. Paul.

The flip-floppers are spread across the state. They make up most of the populous south-eastern half of the state apart from the Clinton/Evers communities.

In another post-election column, Craig Gilbert observed that despite the partisan changes taking place around Wisconsin, “the state persists as a partisan battleground because all those regional shifts over the past two decades have somehow canceled each other out.”[3] Judging by the past two gubernatorial and presidential election cycles, Wisconsin can currently be divided into three general regions. Republican-trenders, Democratic-trenders, and a sizeable third group which moves whither the political winds blow.

[1] https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/blogs/wisconsin-voter/2018/12/22/loss-support-broad-set-cities-suburbs-walkers-undoing/2386626002/

[2] 42 minor civil divisions have missing data and are excluded from the analysis.

[3] https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/blogs/wisconsin-voter/2018/11/30/wisconsin-undergoes-political-shifts-while-somehow-staying-purple/2160683002/

[4] Ward analysis is conducted using the LTSB’s disaggregated ward files.

Continue ReadingWisconsin 2018: a shift toward the Democrats, but not a uniform one

The Milwaukee Area’s Future Workforce

This post is part 3 of a 3-part series based on data originally presented at the first Milwaukee Area Project conference. Part 1, overviews trends in population, employment, and wages since 1990. Part 2, on commuting and migrating in the Milwaukee area is available here.

The Milwaukee region’s economy has undergone major shifts in the past quarter century. In the graph above, nearly all non-farm jobs in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington, and Ozaukee counties are grouped into one of the nine displayed “supersectors”. This data is gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as part of its Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). The QCEW is a particularly good measure of labor trends because it is not simply a survey; it includes all businesses that participate in the federally mandated state unemployment insurance systems.

Education and health is now the largest supersector—having enjoyed decades of nearly unbroken growth. Recessions have had little effect on its growth so far. Trade and transportation is second. This supersector closely mirrors the fortunes of the manufacturing industry, albeit with less extreme declines. Manufacturing jobs fell dramatically during the 2000s and again during the Great Recession. Since then it has remained largely stable. During the recover, Professional and businesses services surpassed it in share of total employment. These jobs are more effected by downturns in the business cycle than those in education and health, but they tend to recover more quickly than those in manufacturing or trade.

Government employment (including federal, state, and local) has trended slightly down in recent years. The growing sector of leisure and hospitality is close to surpassing it. Construction has yet to recover fully from the 2008 collapse of the housing industry. Even in the best of times, however, it constitutes a relatively small portion of the region’s economy.

Grouping many kinds of jobs into a handful of supersectors is useful for understanding some kinds of broad economic changes. But these categories also include broadly disparate jobs in terms of wages and experience required. Above are the specific jobs likely to grow the fastest in Milwaukee county by 2024. These estimates were created by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development in 2014. Below is the same chart recreated for Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington counties.

Both Milwaukee and the WOW counties are expected to add some high paying jobs. The ranks of registered nurses, computer systems analysts, and certain sales representatives are all expected to grow considerably. An average employee in each of these industries makes over $50,000 a year. However, even more jobs will likely be added at the lower-paying end of the spectrum. Due to the aging nature of our population, many of these will be in the caring professions—personal care aides, home health aides, nursing assistants, etc. None of these jobs pay well. An average employee will do well to make $25,000 annually. Food service workers will likely make even less.

As discussed elsewhere, the Milwaukee area fails to attract many new migrants. Not counting international immigration, we have a net outflow of movers. Filling the needs of our labor market requires making good use of our own homegrown workforce. This means businesses across the region will likely look to Milwaukee to fill both low and high-paying jobs. Regarding the latter—the region’s largest colleges and universities are all located in Milwaukee. One of Milwaukee county’s most significant growing industries in the 21st century is higher education which has added close to 3,000 jobs since 2000.

Milwaukee county will also likely provide much of the region’s future lower-wage laborers, if only because Milwaukee is where most of the future workforce lives. The population pyramids below show the age distributions of the populations of Milwaukee city and Waukesha county. The most populous four bars in Milwaukee are all under age 30. By comparison, the largest four bars in Waukesha county are ages 45 to 65. Waukesha’s workforce is aging out just as the bulk of Milwaukee’s population is entering its prime working years.

A recent Marquette Law School Poll of the Milwaukee Area asked respondents about their satisfaction with their community and plans for the future. Overall, wealthy people were likely to say, “I’m happy here and will probably stay for the next five years.” This view was shared by 69 percent of those earning at least $75,000. Only 4 percent answered, “I’m unhappy here and will probably move in the next five years.” By comparison, only 37 percent of respondents from households earning fewer than $40,000 a year reported being happy and intending to stay. Twenty-one percent were unhappy and intended to leave “their community” within the next five years.

The Milwaukee area’s economy continues to shift—in line with national trends—away from manufacturing and trades and toward a more service-based economy. Some of these jobs, such as nurses and high-tech workers, pay well. A few solidly middle-class jobs such as customer service representatives and advanced computer-based manufacturing continue to exhibit strong growth as well. Nonetheless, many of these new service-sector jobs pay poorly, and these low wages likely contribute to the desire of so many low-income area residents to leave their communities. Building a stable, prosperous future for the area will require not just making the region attractive to newcomers, but also improving the quality of life for people who already live here.

Continue ReadingThe Milwaukee Area’s Future Workforce

Commuting and Migrating in the Milwaukee Area

This post is part 2 of a 3-part series based on data originally presented at the first Milwaukee Area Project conference. Part 1, overviews trends in population, employment, and wages since 1990. Part 3, considers the future of the Milwaukee area workforce.

The map above traces commuting flows between each of the 100-plus cities, towns, and villages in the 5-county Milwaukee area. The red lines depict commuters entering or leaving communities outside the region.

In the past, a traditional view of a metropolitan area would likely have been an urban core with many long, straight lines connecting it to the surrounding predominately residential suburbs. This is not the case any longer. In economic terms, the dominant part of the region is now the horizontal axis running roughly west from Milwaukee, through Wauwatosa and Brookfield, and on to Waukesha.

Racine county is less connected. It sends quite a few workers to Milwaukee and Waukesha county, but comparatively few workers travel the other way. Racine is also substantially connected to its neighboring counties of Walworth and Kenosha.

While the above map includes commuting flows in both directions, the one below shows net commuters. Green municipalities have larger populations during the day than at night. Milwaukee city attracts the most workers—some 125,000 in total. Still, nearly 95,000 people leave the city for work every day. Thirty-thousand of them go to Waukesha county, while 30,000 in Waukesha commute to the city of Milwaukee. The net-worker balance between Milwaukee city and Waukesha county is virtually equal.

Most people in the Milwaukee area get to work the same way—by driving 20-25 minutes in a car, alone. Regionally 8% carpool, 4% use public transportation, and 3% walk. Differences between the counties are small, as the graph below shows. Milwaukee city workers are the least likely to drive alone. Eleven percent carpool, 9% take public transit, and 5% walk. Working at home is rare everywhere, but it is most common in wealthy Ozaukee county where 6% of workers do so. Half that many do so in the City of Milwaukee.

Knowing that the great majority of commuters travel alone by car gives added significance to traffic data. Below we have plotted counts from a Wisconsin Department of Transportation traffic monitor on I-94 just west of 37th Street in Milwaukee. The graph contains all traffic from 4:00 to 10:00 on weekday mornings. Of course, this is not the same as commuting. It includes people driving for other reasons, many people work during other times of the day, and I-94 is just one of the ways people travel to work. Still, the traffic monitor’s location is part of the major east-west commuting axis visible on the commuting flow map discussed above, so we expect traffic trends to reflect commuting patterns to a considerable degree.

Sure enough, while eastbound flows outnumbered westbound flows during the early 2000s, the recovery from the Great Recession has seen the two converge at around 20,000 in each direction every weekday morning. This is consistent with the 30,000 commuters between Waukesha county and Milwaukee estimated by the Census Bureau.

Though it has declined in recent years, moving for work is a common cause of migration.[1] Given this, it’s not a surprise that the map of municipal population growth below share similarities with the map of net commuters. Places where people travel to work are also frequently (but not always) places where people want to live. Racine city is a notable exception. Leaving aside the City of Milwaukee, growth has slowed from the 1990s. The Milwaukee area’s growth is also low in comparison to more dynamic areas of the state like Dane county.

One reason for slow growth is the region’s subpar record in drawing new residents from outside the area. The chart below shows net domestic migration as a percent of total population for each metropolitan statistical area in the United States. Both MSAs in the 5-county area lost more people to domestic migration than they gained. To be clear, this doesn’t include people who entered or left the country.

When people do move to the 5-county area from elsewhere, they are most likely to move to one of our two major cities—Milwaukee or Waukesha. Thirty-four percent of the region’s population lives in the city of Milwaukee, but the city attracts 39% of new movers. Waukesha’s share of newcomers is also disproportionately large.

This attractiveness to migrants is likely connected to Milwaukee’s recent growth in total establishments. Population growth and business growth operate in a positive feedback loop, so the attractiveness of Milwaukee to certain kinds of migrants is both a cause and an effect of the economic boom taking place in some parts of the city.

[1] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/13/americans-are-moving-at-historically-low-rates-in-part-because-millennials-are-staying-put/

Continue ReadingCommuting and Migrating in the Milwaukee Area