The Wisconsin Counties Association’s recent study on rural population trends found that two-thirds of the state’s 46 rural counties lost population between 2010 and 2018, in line with national trends.

“The good news is Wisconsin is slightly outperforming,” said Dale Knapp, director of research and analytics at the WCA at the group’s Annual Legislative Exchange on Tuesday.

Only one county in Wisconsin was in the bottom 30 percent of the nation. Thirty-four of Wisconsin’s rural counties are in the middle, which “gives you a better chance to move yourself into growth if you adopt the right policies,” he said.

According to Knapp, Wisconsin’s source of rural population decline differs from the rest of the nation.

“Nationally, 92 percent of population decline was due to outmigration and 8 percent due to natural decline,” said Knapp.

In Wisconsin, it’s about fifty-fifty due to outmigration and natural decline, he said.

Economic impacts of a declining population lead to a shrinking workforce, fewer businesses, fewer jobs, slower income growth and lower net new construction, which affects property tax levels.

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