Wisconsin conservatives or Minnesota liberals? Report compares the growth and distribution of Income in Wisconsin and Minnesota after the Great Recession.
The border war between the neighboring states of Wisconsin and Minnesota is fought on the athletic fields of the Big Ten and the NFC North, but it’s also fought in the boardrooms and dinner tables where businesses and families make their economic decisions. While the Badgers and Gophers football teams battle over Paul Bunyan’s Axe, political leaders in Madison and St. Paul fight to make their states more attractive destinations for employers and workers.
Of course, comparing economics with sports has its limits. In economics, one state “winning” does not mean another is “losing” — the performance of one state does not come at the cost of another. Nonetheless, the relative economic performance of Wisconsin and Minnesota has been a frequent source of discussion in recent years, driven by political debate. Since 2003, the two states have been ruled by governors of opposing parties, and the contrast in their policies has grown more marked in recent years.
In 2011, Republican Gov. Scott Walker took office in Wisconsin, while Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton took office in Minnesota, and both were re-elected in 2014. Their policy differences on taxation, spending and labor market regulation have led many, including President Obama in the speech quoted above, to compare the economies of the states.
In this report, I analyze the relative experience of Wisconsin and Minnesota from 2007 to the present, tracking how different measures of the growth and distribution of income have changed in these states since the Great Recession. I consider a broad range of both aggregate and household-level data to try to gain perspective on the differences.
While some previous reports have suggested that Minnesota has outperformed Wisconsin in recent years, my results suggest the picture is more nuanced. Each state has areas of strength, and the differences that emerge are driven by demographics and economic structure, as well as policy differences.