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Wisconsin Budget Project and COWS | Feb 28, 2014
Category: COWS, High Road, Wisconsin

Income inequality continues to grow in Wisconsin and the United States, producing an ever-widening chasm between the rich and poor. Over the last 40 years, Wisconsin’s richest residents have experienced dramatic increases in income, while Wisconsinites not among the very highest earners saw their incomes stagnate or decline.

Wisconsin’s growth and prosperity are not being equally shared. The rewards of prosperity have been concentrated on the richest 1%. As a state, this should be of substantial concern, not only because of the slow or non-existent growth in incomes for the remaining 99% percent of families, but also because increasing disparity comes with substantial social costs.

All data in this report comes from The Increasingly Unequal States of America: Income Inequality by State, 1917 to 2011, written by Estelle Sommeiller and Mark Price for the Economic Analysis and Research Network. Published by the Economic Policy Institute, the report explores the evolution of top income shares at the state level and provides the figures that allow this analysis of top incomes in Wisconsin. Income figures are presented in 2011 dollars.

Laura Dresser | Feb 24, 2014
Category: COWS, High Road, Wisconsin, Jobs & Skills: Job Quality & Industry Studies, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy

This report analyzes the economic impact of a minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour for Wisconsin workers. Increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 by July 2016 would increase wages for over half a million Wisconsin workers. Additionally, as parents see wages go up, some 234,000 Wisconsin children will see family income rise as a result. Of the 587,000 Wisconsin workers who would be affected by raising the wage to $10.10, 57 percent are women, 79 percent of workers are 20 years old or older, 47 percent of workers have at least some college education, 42 percent of workers work more than 35 hours per week, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) are in families with income under than $60,000.



Additionally, the report addresses the claim that increasing the minimum wage destroys jobs. Over the last twenty years, numerous studies have confirmed that minimum wage increases do not reduce overall employment levels. A letter signed by nearly 600 economists, including seven Nobel prize winners and eight past presidents of the American Economic Association, states that “the weight of evidence now [shows] that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market.” 


COWS Staff | Feb 06, 2014
Category: COWS, Jobs & Skills, State & Local Policy, High Road

Summary (82 pg)

Full Report (328 pg)


This report is based on the practical experience and struggle of elected officials and advocates from around the country in moving their communities onto the “high road” of shared prosperity, environmental sustainability, and efficient democratic government. Its goal is to arm progressive local elected leaders and advocates with a range of effective policies that, if adopted, would make a significant difference in getting on that high road. They will be able to use better democratic organization to add value, reduce waste, and capture and share locally the great benefits of doing both.


Watch official report release, with a discussion including COWS Director Joel Rogers, below>>


Our full report on some of this work is organized into eight areas of local government policy and responsibility:

• Economic development and job creation
• Infrastructure
• Revenue
• Job standards
• Housing
• Education
• Health
• Civil rights

Joel Rogers | Jan 31, 2014
Category: COWS, High Road
“The Right’s Kill Shot,” The Nation 298 (April 14, 2014): 4-6.
Michele Mackey, Matías Cociña, and Laura Dresser | Dec 23, 2013
Category: COWS, State & Local Policy, Wisconsin, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy

Wisconsin has the regrettable distinction of ranking among the worst states in the nation in terms of racial equality. Various aspects of the disparity – from education to jobs and income to incarceration – have been documented consistently for more than a decade. This report pulls together a range of data from public sources to make the racial disparities in the state clear. Brutal inequities in the state span measures of poverty, unemployment, educational attainment, and incarceration.

Laura Dresser | Dec 16, 2013
Category: COWS, State & Local Policy, High Road, Jobs & Skills: Job Quality & Industry Studies, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy

The Living Wage Ordinance for Milwaukee County would establish a floor on wages of $12.45 per hour for the work done in support of the public priorities achieved through county contracts, leases, and concessions. Using the best estimates of covered workers available, a new paper from the Center on Wisconsin Strategy simulates the impact of the $12.45 living wage on covered workers.

Mary Ebeling and Satya Rhodes-Conway | Dec 04, 2013
Category: Transportation
Across the country, urban freeways are at the end of their design lives, and cities are wrestling with the question of how to deal with them. Cities have the opportunity to rethink, remove, or repurpose urban freeway space, which can address environmental and social justice harm and result in significant local economic and social benefits.
Re-Thinking the Urban Freeway provides cities with best practices and solutions from across the country, to help cities mitigate negative freeway impacts and secure a healthy and more prosperous future.

This brief was written by Mary Ebeling, Transportation Policy Analyst with the State Smart Transportation Initiative and Satya Rhodes-Conway, the managing director of the Mayors Innovation Project and a former councilmember in Madison, Wisconsin.  
Joel Rogers | Dec 01, 2013
Category: State & Local Policy
Nov 25, 2013
Category: COWS
Since our founding more than twenty years ago, COWS has promoted “high road” solutions to social problems. These treat equity, sustainability, and capable democratic organization as necessary and achievable complements in human development, not tragic tradeoffs. They use better democratic organization to increase the productivity of places and to capture and share the benefits of doing so, treating democracy not only as a source of voice and equity, but wealth generation. 

COWS’ commitment to building the high road now, and feeding the movement to build it everywhere, is what unites what might otherwise seem disconnected projects — from designing innovative energy-efficiency programs for neighborhoods and cities; to promoting industry partnerships in metropolitan regions; to convening public and private stakeholders on solving energy, transportation, or water issues; to working with state and local elected officials and public interest advocates on a range of other problems and opportunities. In this program overview, we summarize essential elements of this work. 
Jody Knauss, COWS | Nov 19, 2013
Category: COWS, State & Local Policy, Jobs & Skills: Job Quality & Industry Studies

Living wage ordinances are enacted by local governments to raise job standards for workers at firms that do business with a city or county, or that benefit from taxpayer assistance. At least 140 communities in the U.S. have passed such laws over the past two decades, and there is now a significant body of research on their effect. The evidence shows that living wage ordinances raise wages for low-income workers, often by a significant amount, with few if any measurable negative effects on either employment or taxes. Any government considering a living wage ordinance of its own should consider the track record of living wage laws in other communities in order to implement the best living wage law possible. This white paper provides these details.