Gauging the Well-Being of Wisconsin

From the desk of Wisconsin Family Council president, Julaine Appling:

“Wisconsin’s Cultural Indicators, 2014 Edition: Gauging the Well-being of Wisconsin”

In 1997, Wisconsin Family Council released the first edition of Wisconsin’s Cultural Indicators.   It was a well-received publication in part because it was the only document of its kind that brought together important statistics giving a panoramic snapshot of Wisconsin.  We released the second edition in 2008.

Modeled after William Bennett’s The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators at the national level, our Wisconsin’s Cultural Indicators provides an overview of important indicators that impact Wisconsin’s best natural resource:  traditional families.  When Wisconsin’s families are healthy, Wisconsin is healthy.  When our state’s families are weak, struggling, and dependent on the government, that is sure to be reflected in the overall health of the state. As the family, so the state.

The greatly expanded 2014 edition of Wisconsin’s Cultural Indicators follows in the footsteps of the 1997 and 2008 editions and continues to track critical indicators, typically, over a substantial amount of time, almost 50 years in some instances.  When we present these indicators graphically, we are able to see trends—trends that reveal how healthy or unhealthy our state is in specific areas and in a general sense.  As we look at these trends, we are also able to assess whether or not interventions have been helpful. This in turn can provide direction for policy and decision makers on whether or not to maintain such interventions or to introduce others.

ImageIn this 2014 edition, we basically doubled the size of the publication because we added what I consider to be an extremely important section.  Entitled, “Family Structure,” this opening 29-page section shows in graphs, charts and tables that family structure really does matter to Wisconsin’s well-being.  On every measure we considered, husband-wife families do better than single-parent families in Wisconsin.

For instance, single-mother households are much more likely to live in poverty.  Single-parent households are much more likely to take government assistance, including Food Stamps and other income assistance.  One table we provide shows that a single-mother with two children would lose $2,600 every month in government-subsidies if she were to marry.  In annual numbers, this single mom has over $36,000 of taxpayer money coming into the household from credits and programs such as Earned Income Credit for both the state and federal government, Child Tax Credit, WIC, and other subsidies.

Other statistics show that Wisconsin’s marriage rate has dropped nearly 38% in just the last 12 years and that Wisconsin’s total fertility rate has been below replacement levels since 1975.  Replacement level is 2.1 children per woman.  We have vacillated between 1.7 and 1.9 for 39 years.   The data also shows that while teen births have gone down, births to unmarried women have steadily risen since 1960, when only 3% of babies were born out of wedlock to 2010 when 37% of Wisconsin babies were born to unwed mothers.  That figure correlates closely with 50% of the babies born in 2010 having their births paid for by Medicaid.

On some indicators we separated out Milwaukee from the rest of the state.  Milwaukee numbers show an even more startling difference between married and unmarried households.  I believe it is very fair and very accurate to say that written all over this publication is the impact of fatherlessness on a state and a community.

Quite honestly, the data tells the story.  We do provide some analysis and additional information from current research.   Our hope is that public officials, educators at all levels, business leaders, pastors, ministry leaders, and lay citizens will find this Wisconsin Cultural Indicators 2014 Edition instructive and helpful as they make decisions affecting Wisconsin’s future.  We want this publication to make a real difference in our state as we work to improve and increase Wisconsin’s best natural resource—her married mom-and-dad families.

This unique and significant report is available online HERE.

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