Democrat Kathleen Vinehout released a Jan. 24 statement prior to Gov. Scott Walker’s State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature. In it, she contended, “Wages are 18th lowest in the country. We are last in business startups. We are third worst for affordable family-based infant childcare, making holding a job difficult and expensive.”
Vinehout is a member of the Wisconsin Senate from Alma. She is currently running for governor in a crowded Democratic field against the Republican Walker.
The Observatory fact-checked Vinehout’s statement as three separate claims — that wages in Wisconsin are 18th lowest in the country; that Wisconsin is last in business startups; and that the state has the third least affordable family-based infant child care.
When contacted for comment, Vinehout’s office provided The Observatory with three sources from which the information came. The 18th lowest wages statement came from examining data from U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, which tracks average wages and salaries. The last in business startups claim comes from the latest Kauffman Foundation index of state startup activity. The claim that we are third worst for affordable family-based infant child care comes from a 2016 report by Child Care Aware titled, “Parents and the High Cost of Child Care.”
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2016, the average wages and salaries in Wisconsin were $46,659, placing the state at the 21st worst ranking in the country. Because Vinehout’s statement may have referred to low wages in earlier years, we examined data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis for 2015 and for that year, Wisconsin had the 19th lowest wages. While Wisconsin’s wages are below the national average, Vinehout’s claim is close but not completely accurate, and as such The Observatory rates this claim as Mostly True.
Turning to startups, the 2017 Kauffman Foundation report on startup activity focused on new business creation activity and people engaging in business startup activity.
According to the report, Wisconsin ranks in last place in business startup activity in the nation. The Kauffman Foundation Index measures startup activity in three ways:
- The rate of new entrepreneurs in the economy calculated as the percentage of adults becoming entrepreneurs in a given month;
- The opportunity share of new entrepreneurs, calculated as the percentage of new entrepreneurs driven primarily by “opportunity” vs. “necessity”; and
- The startup density of a region, measured as the number of new employer businesses, normalized by the business population.
According to the Kauffman Foundation report for 2017, Wisconsin is ranked last with an index of -3.65. By comparison, Nevada is ranked first with an index of 3.22. The Observatory examined the Kauffman Foundation business startup reports for 2016 and 2015 in which Wisconsin was last in the nation. We rate the claim by Vinehout that Wisconsin is last in business startups as Verified.
The last part of Vinehout’s claim comes from a 2016 report by Child Care Aware.
The report examines the 10 least affordable states for family child care for infants in 2015 by comparing the average cost of such care against the state median income.
In the report, for the year 2015, Wisconsin was the fourth least affordable state for family-based infant child care. The Observatory also examined the group’s most recent report last updated in December. In that report, Wisconsin was the seventh least affordable state for family-based infant child care in 2016.
Since Vinehout’s statement is that Wisconsin is the third worst in the nation, The Observatory rates this claim as Mostly True.
Bureau of Economic Analysis, Table SA30 Economic Profile; Average wages and salaries, 2015 and 2016
Child Care Aware, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care report, 2016
Child Care Aware, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care report, 2017
Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Kauffman Index of Startup Activity: State Trends, 2017
Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Kauffman Index of Startup Activity: State Trends, 2016
Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Kauffman Index of Startup Activity: State Trends, 2015
Kathleen Vinehout, Campaign Website, accessed March 20, 2018Senator Vinehout Statement on the State of the State, Jan.24, 2018