Economic Performance in Wisconsin since the Great Recession: A County-Level Analysis

Noah Williams


This paper studies the performance of the Wisconsin economy at the county level in order to understand how different parts of the state fared during the Great Recession and the subsequent recovery. We find strong evidence of convergence in living standards. The counties that had the highest unemployment rates, highest poverty rates, and lowest incomes before the recession have seen the largest improvements in the following decade. We also find that the counties which suffered the most during the recession have had the largest gains during recovery. While we find convergence in living standards, we also find evidence of divergence in measures of overall size. Counties that had a high level of employment, larger labor force, or bigger population before the recession experienced faster average growth in those measures in the following decade.  Similar trends occurred across all counties nationwide, but the magnitude of the convergence of living standards and divergence in size was stronger in Wisconsin.

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