Richard Longworth, the Midwesterner, has a good post looking at the Midwestern states as laboratories for various economic theories. He recognizes any number of caveats to interpreting the results, but notes that Minnesota is having a better time of things economically with its approach when compared to places like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana. A significant difference between Minnesota and these other Midwestern states is that Minnesotans have been more inclined to spend on education and public infrastructure.
As we noted above, the divergence between incomes in Wisconsin and Minnesota began some 50 years ago. More to the point, most Midwestern states – Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana especially – have economies based on heavy industry. Industry’s decline in the last half century, culminating in the recession, has hit these states harder than it did Minnesota, which has less of a heavy industry legacy to overcome.
What can be said is that Walker hasn’t made things any better. Daniels made things demonstrably worse. With Drayton, so far so good.
Economists like Jacobs, Johnston and Glazer are on stronger ground when they argue that governors such as Drayton are preparing their states to compete in the global economy by spending in crucial areas such as education and infrastructure. Walker and Daniels, by focusing more on budget-cutting than investment, leave their states with no weapons to fight these global economic wars.
Race is the elephant in the room. It’s easy to look good on these metrics in a bifurcated economy when you’ve got lots of privileged white people, especially when more educated and concentrated in an urban area like Minnesota. Give those states similar racial makeups and population distributions, and see how they fare.
Dr. Longworth responded that racial composition and income are pretty much all over the map in terms of correlation. For example, Maryland is first in per capita income and fourth as a percentage of black population. (He goes through a number of other states.)
Meanwhile, I had posted a link to the Midwesterner on my Facebook wall which drew the attention of a professor friend of mine who has professional and personal experience with Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. His sense is that Minnesota has been more successful than the others in developing a knowledge based economy; noting “a much stronger appreciation of education and knowledge in Minnesota than . . . in Indiana.”
I can’t speak to Minnesota, but there is a distinct streak of anti-intellectualism in Indiana. Our people purport to prefer “common sense” to “elitism”; the problem being that common sense is not reliably sensible. Certainly, when I was a kid in eastern Indiana, a bunch of fancy book learning didn’t inspire the admiration of one’s peers.
In any event, the original post is well worth a read.