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Wisconsin benchmarks Minnesota: How do we look?

We constantly hear anecdotal comparisons of Minnesota to surrounding states, usually based on “tax rankings,” “business climate” and “business owners are bolting for South Dakota.” But how do border states actually compare themselves to Minnesota?

Competitive Wisconsin provides one answer. It recently published its tenth annual benchmark survey comparing Wisconsin to U.S. averages and to its border states, including Minnesota. I found the report handy for its comparison to the U.S. averages on dozens of benchmarks. The benchmarks typically included the most recent year and the five-year trend. Comparisons are drawn from various sources and cover different time periods, depending on the available data.

Rather than extract the Minnesota numbers here with all the necessary qualifiers, I’ve simply noted where we clearly ranked above or below the U.S. averages. (It’s a somewhat subjective, not a scientific, sort. For example, I put Minnesota’s private new-business starts in the worse category, though the five-year growth rate is slightly above average. But the latest year is half a point and 20 percent below average.) You can see the actual data for Minnesota and the other states here (PDF).

Where Minnesota ranks worse than average:

• Personal per capita income growth
• Median household income growth
• Employment growth
• Violent crime growth rate
• Cost of living
• Science doctorates granted
• State and local tax burden
• Return on federal tax dollars
• New business starts
• Exports
• Invested venture capital

Where Minnesota ranks better than average:

• Percentage of uninsured
• Violent crime per capita
• Cost of living
• Home ownership
• Poverty
• Low birth weights
• Math proficiency
• ACT/SAT scores
• High school graduation rate
• Percent of college grads
• Manufacturing jobs
• Energy costs
• Research & development
• Patents
• High tech employment

In other areas, such as unemployment, highway condition, government employees per capita, obesity and smoking, we were more or less average. Change in state’s share of farm income was exactly average, but our 5-year trend was through the roof.

One observation: Where we rank better than average, it might be argued, historic investments in education, health care and infrastructure built up a long-term advantage. Indices where we’re worse than average seem more sensitive to current trends and might be leading indicators of erosion in areas where we now do pretty well.

Charlie Quimby is a communications fellow with Growth & Justice, a Minnesota economic think tank. This article originally appeared on its website

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Justin Heideman on 04/29/2008 - 10:24 am.

    How can Minnesota be both better and worse than the national average for cost of living?

  2. Submitted by Charlie Quimby on 04/29/2008 - 11:27 am.

    Justin, Good catch.

    My earlier draft of the two lists was headed “above average” and “below average.” But being above average for cost of living was not a positive indicator like the others, so I changed the headings and moved cost of living to the worse-than list without deleting it from the other.


  3. Submitted by myles spicer on 04/29/2008 - 12:02 pm.

    The “litmus” test for any administration (to quote Ronald Reagan) is: are you better off today than you were 4 years ago. With the current state administration, the answer has to be a resounding “NO”. This is not the Minnesota I know and love — it has been converted from a leading edge progressive state to one that is cheap, poorly run and in decline. It is a sad commentary on today’s governance.

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