WPF report shows high population growth in Wisconsin’s rural areas 

A report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum (WPF) shows the state’s rural population grew 5.1% between 2000 and 2022, according to WisBusiness. The growth is the second highest in the Midwest after North Dakota.

Averaging to around a 0.23% increase annually — reasonably strong in the Midwest context —the growth is particularly evident in areas where tourism plays a large role in the local economy.

The report shows that across all 12 states that make up the region, the rural population has fallen 1.1% since 2000. Around one-third of Wisconsin’s nonmetropolitan counties have lost population in the past two decades or so, but the figure is still lower than those of other Midwest states, and most of the state’s rural counties have remained steady or added residents.

Dane and St. Croix counties represent two of Wisconsin’s top six counties that had a population growth of 10% or more since 2010, and though they are urban counties, the next four are all rural. They include Sawyer, Vilas, Bayfield, and Burnett.

WPF notes that among the fast-growing rural counties in the report are those dominated by tourism and recreation and are attractive to retirees.