WHY IT MATTERS: Understanding our people is the first step to building a community that works well for all. At a most basic level, who lives in SWCA and what trends have we seen over the years?
Historically, the population in our region has been relatively stable, neither growing nor shrinking, but over the past few years, our community has experienced slow population decline. There are now 45,759 SWCA residents. Since 2000, the state of Wisconsin has grown by about 6%, while our community has shrunk by 2%.
SWCA also lags the state in its diversity with a non-white population of 7% compared to Wisconsin at 17% and the nation at 38%. For our youth, the future is one of diversity. The Census Bureau projects that by 2043, or when today’s first graders are 30, the U.S. will be a “plurality nation” with no one ethnic or racial group being a majority.
SWCA’s greatest diversity is among our youth. The number of local youth who identify as Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, Native American or Hispanic continues to rise. This is good news given that research shows economic opportunity is increasingly tied to a worker’s ability to navigate and contribute to a diverse, global environment. The experience of growing up in an inclusive and equitable community will help prepare our youth to succeed in the new plurality nation.
Wisconsin is aging more rapidly than the nation, and SWCA is aging more rapidly than the state, with more than half of our population over the age of 44. Our older residents tend to stay in the community but some young people and families with children are leaving for jobs elsewhere. Over the past 14 years, the school-age population of the region has dropped 20%, significantly faster than in comparable communities.
This aging could present challenges for local businesses and social support networks, but it also provides opportunities. An informal survey of eight major local employers has identified 1,500 expected job openings due to retirements over the next five years alone. With vacant family-sustaining career jobs, SWCA can both employ more young people who grew up here and attract families to the region.
WHAT DOES LIVING IN A DIVERSE COMMUNITY LOOK LIKE TO YOU?
Vital Signs covers the south Wood County area of Wisconsin, including the municipalities of: Biron; Cranmoor; Grand Rapids; Nekoosa; Pittsville; Town of Port Edwards; Village of Port Edwards; Town of Rudolph; Village of Rudolph; Saratoga; Seneca; Sigel; Vesper; Wisconsin Rapids; and Rome in Adams County.
For additional information, contact:
Incourage | [email protected] | 715.423.3863