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

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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.

Facts and History — But No Predictions — as Program Sets the Political Scene

Posted on Categories Lubar Center, Marquette Law School Poll, Political Processes & Rhetoric, PublicLeave a comment» on Facts and History — But No Predictions — as Program Sets the Political Scene

Set aside (for the moment) the poll numbers, the partisanship, and the passion and analyze the facts and data.

That was the goal of an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program on Thursday, June 14, at Marquette Law School that was a bit unusual. How so? The guests were Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, and John Johnson, research fellow for the Law Schools Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education, but, unlike the large majority of such sessions, particularly involving Franklin, they didn’t have any fresh poll results.

Instead, the goal, as Franklin put it, was to look at the lay of the political landscape, both in Wisconsin and beyond. Results from four special elections so far in 2018 for legislative seats in Wisconsin and from the statewide election of a Supreme Court justice offered the opening insights on current Wisconsin voting patterns. But the discussion expanded to encompass results from more than 300 elections nationwide since the 2016 presidential election and to look at history going back as far as the 1860s.

Franklin and Johnson showed the degree to which Democrats generally had gained ground since 2016 in election results in Wisconsin and nationwide. But Franklin looked at historical trends that show how the party of a sitting president usually loses ground in mid-term elections. What is shaping up for this fall’s elections may (or may not) be more in line with historical patterns than many people think.

One interesting insight: On average, Franklin said, the opposition party has gained 24 seats in the US House of Representatives in mid-term elections. And for the Democrats to gain control of the House this year, they need to gain 24 seats. That means it’s anyone’s guess which party will have the majority in the House after November. Or, as Franklin put it, “uncertainty is the order of the day.”

Franklin looked at the history of the impact on mid-term election of factors such as a president’s popularity, change in the national gross domestic product, unemployment rates, and the results of polling that asks people a generic question (with no candidate specified) about which party they hope will win the upcoming election. Based on history, some of those indicators suggest good prospects for Democrats – and some don’t.

The four special legislative elections in Wisconsin this year, as well as the Supreme Court election (assuming you assign partisan interpretation to it), each showed Republicans doing worse and Democrats doing better than they did in recent elections, Franklin and Johnson showed.

Some suggest that the low turnout in those races reduces the weight that should be put on such trends. Johnson analyzed results of special elections compared to general elections broadly and found that the differences in outcomes between the low turnout and high turnout elections were not as great as many people assumed.

But Franklin said a shift toward Democrats in the legislative elections in Wisconsin this fall wouldn’t necessarily mean changes in which party controls each legislative house in Madison. For example, few legislative elections in recent years have been settled by five percentage points or less, he said, so a five point shift toward Democrats might not change the winning party in many cases.

The first round of results for the Marquette Law School Poll since March is set to be released on Wednesday (June 20). It will include results for the Democratic primary for governor and the Republican primary for a US Senate seat. The pace of campaigning (and polling) will accelerate through the coming months.

But at this point, Franklin said, it was good to pause and look at the bigger and historical perspective.

“The main thing I want to leave you with is uncertainty (about what lies ahead), but I want you to appreciate why we are uncertain and how these different indicators are pushing in different directions,” Franklin said.

To view video of the one-hour conversation, click here. To get information on the poll release program at Eckstein Hall on June 20, click here.



New Marquette Lawyer Celebrates Eckstein Hall and the Man Who Designed It

Posted on Categories International Law & Diplomacy, Marquette Law School, Milwaukee Area Project, PublicLeave a comment» on New Marquette Lawyer Celebrates Eckstein Hall and the Man Who Designed It

Image of Ralph Jackson on the Marquette Lawyer CoverHas it been 10 years already? Yes, the tenth anniversary is at hand for the groundbreaking for Eckstein Hall on May 22, 2008.

How have things worked out? Anyone who spends time—and especially anyone who spends a lot of time—in the home of Marquette Law School knows the answer: Very well.

The new issue of Marquette Lawyer magazine marks the anniversary of the start of building Eckstein Hall and celebrates the building’s success with two featured pieces, following an introduction by the dean including the famous photo of Tory Hill from the day of the groundbreaking.

One entry is a profile of Ralph Jackson, the Boston architect who was the lead figure in designing the building. Jackson, now retired, has a powerful personal story, rising from modest roots to national prominence as an architect. The story, “How Ralph Jackson Found His Voice,” may be read by clicking here.

The second feature is a photo essay on a day in the life of Eckstein Hall. The 22 pages of beautiful photos illustrate many of the facets of the identity of Marquette Law School as seen on one day, Nov. 14, 2017. The photo essay may be viewed by clicking here.

The new magazine includes other valuable reading, including:

“International Human Rights Law: An Unexpected Threat to Peace,” an edited text of the Boden Lecture delivered by Ingrid Wuerth, who holds the Helen Strong Curry Chair in International Law at Vanderbilt University. Read it by clicking here.

“Migration Challenges: Trends in People’s Movement to and from the Milwaukee Area and Wisconsin Illuminate Important Issues,” a piece in which John D. Johnson, research fellow with the Law School’s Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education, and Charles Franklin, the Law School’s professor of law and public policy, analyze population trends. It may be read by clicking here.

“An Unveiling and a Blessing.” A portrait of St. Edmund Campion was unveiled at a ceremony on October 25, 2017, and now hangs in the Chapel of St. Edmund Campion in Eckstein Hall. An image of the portrait and the text of remarks at the ceremony—variously by the Hon. Paul D. Clement, Dean Joseph D. Kearney, Rev. Thomas S. Anderson, S.J., and the portrait’s artist, Henry Wingate—can be found by clicking here.

The “From the Podium” section includes texts of speeches at the Columbus Day Banquet of the Wisconsin Chapter of the Justinian Society of Lawyers on October 13, 2017, by the three honorees: State Public Defender Kelli S. Thompson, Dean Kearney, and Judge William Brash III. The section also includes “The Person on the Other Side of the Table,” the text of remarks from Michael J. Gonring, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, upon receiving the Faithful Servant Award of the St. Thomas More Lawyers Society. Read the section by clicking here.

The Class Notes section, which may be read by clicking here, includes entries about Jessica Poliner, L’06, who coauthored a book with advice for improving gender equity in the workplace, and about Rachel Lindsay, L’11, who gained fame by appearing on the television programs The Bachelor and The Bachlorette, but who continues her work as a lawyer in Dallas.

To view the entire magazine, click here.

Prominent Sociologist Spotlights Community Organizations’ Role in Crime Reduction

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Lubar Center, Milwaukee, Milwaukee Area Project, Public, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on Prominent Sociologist Spotlights Community Organizations’ Role in Crime Reduction

America’s cities overall have experienced a remarkable decline in crime that began in the 1990s and that has brought improvements in civic life in some surprising ways.

But the strategies that played a significant part in reducing crime – including stop and frisk policing and mass incarceration – are fading, and different approaches are needed to sustain safety improvements.

And the strategies that should be pursued include building up the number and resources of community organizations that serve in many different ways to increase the quality of life in neighborhoods and doing as much as possible to encourage residents to take roles in helping that quality of life.

A leading figure in American thinking on how to improve the quality of life in urban areas presented that provocative perspective at a conference at Eckstein Hall on Wednesday. Patrick Sharkey, a professor of sociology at New York University, told an audience including leaders of many Milwaukee non-profit organizations that research and data back-up his assertion that such organizations are valuable. There is “really strong evidence” to show the value of community organizations, he said. Continue reading “Prominent Sociologist Spotlights Community Organizations’ Role in Crime Reduction”

Lake Michigan and the Chicago Megacity in the 21st Century

Posted on Categories Environmental Law, Lubar Center, Marquette Law School, Milwaukee, Public, Speakers at Marquette, Water LawLeave a comment» on Lake Michigan and the Chicago Megacity in the 21st Century

I have previously written in this space about the difficult water policy issues facing “megacities,” generally defined as cities with a population of over ten millA photo of the cover of Marquette Lawyerion people. Meanwhile, the Law School, working in partnership with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has taken an increasing role and interest in studying various aspects of the “Chicago Megacity,” the region stretching from the Milwaukee area, across metropolitan Chicago, and into northwest Indiana. For example, see hereherehere, and here for discussion of a variety of issues such as economic development, transportation, and education.

We are excited to announce that on April 17, the Law School and the Journal Sentinel will continue those efforts, hosting a conference titled “Lake Michigan and the Chicago Megacity in the 21st Century.” The event is free and open to the public, but advanced registration is required; find out more and register at this link. More details about the conference follow.

Continue reading “Lake Michigan and the Chicago Megacity in the 21st Century”

Speakers Differ at Lubar Center Program on Whether Success in School Can Increase Social Mobility

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Lubar Center, Milwaukee Public Schools, Public, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on Speakers Differ at Lubar Center Program on Whether Success in School Can Increase Social Mobility

When you say “social-emotional learning,” you’ve said something that prompts wide-ranging and provocative conversations about kindergarten through twelfth grade education.

That was the case Wednesday at a morning-long conference in the Lubar Center of Eckstein titled “What K-12 Students Need: Striking a Balance between Social-Emotional and Academic Learning.” The session included moderated conversations with two nationally-known education commentators and a panel discussion with Wisconsin educators who are working on increasing the success of schools in helping children deal with their personal needs as a step toward improving their success in school in beyond.

The conference, a program of the Law School’s Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education and the Marquette University College of Education, attracted a capacity audience of more than 200, with other people watching it on a livestreamed internet broadcast. Continue reading “Speakers Differ at Lubar Center Program on Whether Success in School Can Increase Social Mobility”

Voter Identification Laws Set Off Alarm Bells for “On the Issues” Speakers

Posted on Categories Lubar Center, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on Voter Identification Laws Set Off Alarm Bells for “On the Issues” Speakers

A cycle in which expansion of the right to vote is followed by efforts to suppress voting can be traced back to the 18th and 19th centuries, according to Professor Atiba Ellis. And the cycle continues now in ways that are keeping many people from voting and making voting much harder for others. 

“We seem to be repeating the same pattern over and over again,” Ellis said at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program Thursday in the Lubar Center of Marquette Law School. Ellis, the Boden Visiting Professor at Marquette Law School this fall, is a professor at the West Virginia University College of Law who has made study of voting rights a focus of his scholarship. 

Joining Ellis in the program was Molly McGrath of the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project, who called the current surge of laws requiring such things as presentation of photo identification in order to vote “incredibly alarming.”   Continue reading “Voter Identification Laws Set Off Alarm Bells for “On the Issues” Speakers”

Political Flux in Southwestern Wisconsin Offers Surprises, Journalist Finds

Posted on Categories Lubar Center, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on Political Flux in Southwestern Wisconsin Offers Surprises, Journalist Finds

Don’t make assumptions. Every journalist knows that assumptions can lead you astray.

So if you’re talking with five guys in Richland County in southwestern Wisconsin about their guns and chain saws, you might guess they voted for Donald Trump for president a year ago. Wrong for all five of them, Craig Gilbert, the Washington bureau chief of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, found during a recent reporting trip.

Gilbert found that a lot of assumptions some might make about the political views and voting patterns of people in the largely rural, largely white, and not wealthy part of Wisconsin were wrong. Many communities in southwestern Wisconsin voted for Barack Obama for president in 2008 and 2012 and then voted for Trump in 2016. The views of people Gilbert interviewed in recent weeks remain in flux about Trump, amid a lot of continuing dissatisfaction with the way the political system operates (or doesn’t operate) in Washington. Continue reading “Political Flux in Southwestern Wisconsin Offers Surprises, Journalist Finds”

Future of Milwaukee and Local Hispanics Is Linked, UCC Leader Says

Posted on Categories Lubar Center, Milwaukee, Public, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on Future of Milwaukee and Local Hispanics Is Linked, UCC Leader Says

Ricardo Diaz says he is paid to give solutions, not to get discouraged by the problems. And solutions and generally optimistic views about the future of the Hispanic population in the Milwaukee area are what he offered in an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program Thursday in the Lubar Center of Eckstein Hall.

Diaz is executive director of the United Community Center, a booming, multi-faceted operation on the South Side that offers services for everyone from pre-schoolers to the elderly, including an art center, a fitness center, a restaurant, a treatment center for people with Alzheimer’s, and a highly-praised youth music program. It is perhaps best known for its Bruce-Guadalupe Community School, a kindergarten through grade charter school with 1,300 students and a record as one of the brightest lights on the Milwaukee education scene.

Gousha, the Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy, asked Diaz what the overall goal of the UCC is. “Simply, getting Hispanics into the middle class,” Diaz replied. And he said there is progress in doing that.   Continue reading “Future of Milwaukee and Local Hispanics Is Linked, UCC Leader Says”

Rita Aleman Named Lubar Center Program Manager

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WISN Rita AlemanRita Aleman has been named the program manager of Marquette Law School’s new Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education.

Since early 2016, Aleman has been executive producer for “Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien,” a Hearst Television weekly political news magazine based in Washington, D.C. Aleman was executive producer for special projects at WISN 12 television in Milwaukee from 2002 to 2016.

In her new role, Aleman will work with colleagues at the Law School to create, organize, and carry out events of the Lubar Center and extend the center’s reach, including an increased presence on the internet. Aleman is scheduled to begin work in January. Continue reading “Rita Aleman Named Lubar Center Program Manager”

The Milwaukee Area’s Future Workforce

Posted on Categories Lubar Center, Milwaukee Area ProjectLeave a comment» on 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.

Commuting and Migrating in the Milwaukee Area

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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/