Population in Greater Madison Region counties rebounds in 2017

The Applied Population Lab (APL) at UW-Madison reported in April that, while Dane County continues to lead population growth in the state, many other counties have recently rebounded from earlier declines and slow growth. The Regional Planning Commission looked at the data for the counties surrounding Dane County to see if this rebound applied to them as well.

Between 2010 and 2017 Dane County grew by an estimated 48,341 people. That increase constituted 45% of the state’s population growth of 108,195. As previously reported, Dane County’s growth during this period already surpassed the state of Wisconsin’s population projection for the county during 2010 to 2020 decade, of 42,547.


Source: UW-Madison Applied Population Laboratory, “April Notes from APL,” reporting data from U.S. Census Bureau county population estimates.

The APL also reported that suburban, manufacturing and recreation/retirement counties have rebounded, and are gaining in-migrants. Compared to the 2010 to 2016 period, where most counties lost population or showed slow gains, year from 2016 to 2017 showed much stronger increases.

The Regional Planning Commission looked at the data for the counties surrounding Dane County to see if this rebound applied to them as well. The chart below shows that Dodge, Green and Iowa counties rebounded from average annual population declines during 2010 to 2016, to experience population increases.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau, county population estimates (PEP_2017_PEPTCOMP_with_ann)

The other counties – Columbia, Rock, Sauk and Jefferson – show significant increases in annual population gains from the 2010-2016 to 2016-2017 periods. Sauk County in particular more than tripled its annual increase, while Dodge also experienced a large increase.

A significant increase in net migration (in-migration minus out-migration) accounted for most of the rebound among these seven counties. All of them except Jefferson experienced negative net migration from 2010 to 2016. Yet, all seven of them turned that around in 2017 with increases in net migration.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau, county population estimates (PEP_2017_PEPTCOMP_with_ann)

Dane County also experienced healthy net migration of an estimated 3,213 for the year between 2016 and 2017. However, the Census estimates that this was a decrease from the annual average of 3,860 from 2010 to 2016.

While it is too soon to draw many conclusions from a single year of data, the rebound of Wisconsin counties, and counties within the Greater Madison region, is a positive sign. Perhaps the strong national and state economy is attracting more people. Perhaps the vibrant Madison region growth is spreading out to adjacent counties. The coming years will fill in this picture.

Scenarios Survey – Coming September 12, 2018!

scenario survey starts september 12

A Greater Madison Vision is pleased to invite the public to participate in our Scenarios Survey!

Survey runs September 12 through November 12, 2018

Over the next 25 years, the Madison Region’s population is expected to grow by 157,000 people. Take our scenario survey to help us develop a shared vision and plan to guide public and private decisions about this growth.

How will we address a doubling of the aging population, increasing racial and ethnic diversity, and changing housing and living preferences?

Will driverless cars, job automation, artificial intelligence, and e-commerce expansion impact life in the region?

Will social and political changes such as the urban-rural divide and the shifting of responsibilities between local, state, and federal government change how we solve problems?

Will environmental changes, such as climate change and water pollution, influence our decisions?


You can explore and evaluate choices for future growth and development in our region through an online survey between September 12 and November 12, 2018. The survey gathers public input for the next regional land use plan, which will guide regional growth and development through 2050.

National Trend Toward Suburban and Rural Growth: Where Does Madison Fit In?

Following the Great Recession, the larger, more urban metro regions grew faster while suburban and rural areas declined or grew more slowly. A recent study of newly released census data by the Brookings Institution showed that growth patterns are returning to pre-recession trends: more growth in suburbs, exurbs and rural areas. There was, however, one exception: more growth in “middle of the country” metros.

How does the Greater Madison area fit in the national picture of recent growth?

The Madison metropolitan area (Columbia, Dane, Green and Iowa counties) were one of the “middle of the country” metro regions gaining population.

According to the new data, the greater Madison region grew by 47,652 people between 2010 and 2017, to a total of 654,230. That equates to an annual average growth rate of 1.1%. Most of the growth occurred in Dane County, which grew by 47,209 people, at an average annual growth rate of 1.4%.

However, Madison is growing much slower than the top ten fastest growing US metro areas, which grew at annual rates of 2.5% to 4.0%. This includes the Austin region, which added 55,269 people in one year (2016 to 2017), an increase of 2.7%. During that same year, the Madison region added 6,798 people, ranking number 60 for annual growth among the top 100 most populous regions in the country.

Where did that growth in the Madison region occur? Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA) population estimates* for Dane County show 48% of the growth from 2010 to 2017 occurred in the city of Madison. The small cities – Sun Prairie, Verona, Stoughton, Middleton, Monona and Fitchburg – accounted for 22% of the growth. The 19 villages captured 16% and the unincorporated towns 14%.

How and where will the Greater Madison region grow in the future? A Greater Madison Vision explores this question in different alternative futures. Stay tuned to learn more about the different futures and the chance to tell decision makers what type of future you want for the region.

* DOA population estimate differ somewhat from U.S. Census estimates. DOA estimates a Dane County increase of 35,376 from 2010 to 2017; an annual average increase of 1.0%. 

Is the Greater Madison Region’s Population Poised to Take Off?

A Greater Madison Vision projects that Dane County’s population will increase by about 157,000 people between 2015 and 2050. If that were to happen, about 670,000 people would live in Dane County by 2050.

But could growth happen faster than official predictions anticipate? Some signs certainly point that direction.

157,000 additional people would be approximately two full Camp Randall stadiums’ worth of new residents.

First, the Madison region stacks up well against top tech industry regions like San Francisco, Seattle, and Boston. In fact, just this week, an economic study reported that the Madison region’s economy is the 13th strongest in the nation. Various firms, investors, analysts, and tech workers are taking notice.

Ranking 6th among the top metros in advanced industry output and 11th for job growth, the Greater Madison Region’s tech industry experienced a 30 percent growth rate, leading the country within that industry.

Second, the recent addition of direct flights between Madison and San Francisco strengthens the connections between Madison and the Bay Area’s tech sector.

If these signs do indeed point to a high-tech economy that’s about to take off, how much additional population growth might we see? Two “what ifs” shed light on that question.

1) What if growth in the region continues its recent, faster pace?
Since 2010, Dane County grew faster than the State of Wisconsin’s official demographic projections. If growth continues at that pace, the county would add about 253,600 people by 2050, an additional 96,000 residents compared to the standard projection.

2) What if the region is at a “tipping point” similar to what other regions have experienced, and population growth accelerates?
The City of Austin, TX has experienced extremely rapid growth in the past generation or two. Austin’s population in 1970 was about 250,000, or about where Madison’s is now. Today, Austin is home to 950,000 people, with over 2 million people in its metro area. Needless to say, Austin’s growth vastly exceeded what the official State of Texas numbers predicted. Austin revised its own growth projections upward based on recent in-migration and thinks that its population by 2040 could be 38 percent higher than the state projections. Austin, like other cities, experienced a huge population and economic boom associated with a rapidly expanding tech and services economy. If we applied that same logic to projections for the Madison region, we could add 350,000 people by 2050.

Current signs point to faster growth than projected. This has implications for how we invest in transportation, what kinds of housing and neighborhoods we build, how we protect the health of our lakes, rivers, and soil, and many other issues. How much will Madison grow? Only time will tell, but it is smart to consider the possibilities.

We Heard from You in 2017!

2017 was a big year for A Greater Madison Vision! With an engaged steering committee, a solid understanding of the region’s big trends and issues, and a diverse set of strategies, we set out to learn what you thought the future could and should be like in the Greater Madison Region.

We engaged directly with 916 people in workshops and at tabling events. Online, people interacted with our website, social media posts, and survey questions a combined 6,302 times. Staff and Steering Committee members presented to 37 different stakeholder groups, reaching a total audience of 626 local leaders. All told, we had more than 7,000 different points of engagement in 2017!

We learned a lot from all this valuable engagement across a wide variety of groups, events, and platforms. Keep reading to get summaries of what you told us in 2017!


Driving Forces

Photo courtesy of United Way of Dane County

In our Driving Forces workshops and surveys, we talked to 272 people over the course of the spring and summer of 2017. We were able to whittle down a long list of trends, innovations, and ideas that could influence our lives in the future! Check out our Driving Forces page to see the list.

We were able to gather several common themes and issues from across these discussions:

  • Education as a vehicle for modeling inclusivity, equity, and critical thinking skills
  • Enhance collaboration among business, education, and social service organizations to address impacts
  • Getting people to services, or getting services to people?
  • Need for a more comprehensive regional transit system that extends beyond the central Madison area
  • Emphasis on services rather than infrastructure (specifically regarding health care, but applies over multiple categories)
iPlan Greater Madison

Screenshot from iPlan workshop

In our ten iPlan workshops, we asked a total of 124 participants to make development maps of the region that make room for at least as much population and job growth as we’re expecting over the next 30 years. The game provides a wide range of ways to accomplish that goal, but the catch is that various interest groups will oppose your map if it negatively affects the issue they are most concerned about. We saw participants use various approaches to making their maps, and the workshops prompted rich and lively conversations that reflect an increased understanding of the tradeoffs involved in regional planning for growth and development.

Imagine Madison

Courtesy of City of Madison Planning Division

The City of Madison is currently undertaking a major update of its comprehensive plan, an initiative called Imagine Madison. AGMV staffers collaborated with city planning staff by sharing resources, working together on survey questions, and contributing data and displays to events and workshops. Imagine Madison gave grants and resources to community groups to hold “Resident Panel” conversations about the future of the city. The city reached out to groups and organizations from communities typically underrepresented in planning efforts. As a result, their discussions and feedback were a great opportunity for both the City of Madison and A Greater Madison Vision to learn about how people from diverse communities and backgrounds view the future. Many thanks to Imagine Madison and the Resident Panel participants!

Hip Hop Architecture

Photo Credit: Madison365

We also used our neighborhood model blocks at the Hip Hop Architecture Camp sessions at the Madison Public Library in February 2017. This innovative and award-winning program to introduce youth to the built environment and how it impacts their lives through hip hop music, run by Madison-based architect Michael Ford, provided a rich environment in which to introduce neighborhood and community design concepts. AGMV and Imagine Madison staff joined Mr. Ford and around 40 young participants on four Saturdays in February.

Camp participants showed us how they would go about creating the neighborhoods of the future. One of the biggest takeaways from the sessions was how many participants placed essential community services and gathering spaces, like community centers and grocery stores, at the figurative and literal center of their model neighborhoods.


Photo by CARPC staff

AGMV staff, interns, and volunteers set up informational tables at the Dane County Fair, several different outdoor markets, the Hmong New Year celebration, and many other events. We also provided information at public meetings for Imagine Madison, the City of Madison’s comprehensive plan update process. We interacted with over 520 people at tabling events this summer, including nearly 400 at the five-day Dane County Fair. Attendees of all the events at which AGMV was present were able to interact with our model block neighborhoods, tell us about their most important driving forces of future change, and help us understand how they envision their future in the Greater Madison Region.

One of the most important lessons we learned from tabling was how much where we live now influences where we see ourselves in the future. At the Dane County Fair, many of the visitors to our table live in more rural areas. When asked to show in a set of model neighborhoods where they see themselves living in the future, the majority of them picked places that were as rural or even more rural than where they live now. A significant number of kids under 18 picked low-density suburban places, while many of their parents (and other younger adults) valued the privacy and closeness to nature in rural living. Older adults tended to be split between rural areas and urban neighborhoods. People’s choices of future neighborhoods at the Dane County Fair stood in contrast with table visitors at more urban events, who tended to pick denser, more urban places. These valuable outreach opportunities got people thinking about the future of their communities and helped remind us of the broad range of perspectives about neighborhoods, community, amenities, and access to nature across the Greater Madison Region.


On top of reaching out to the broader community, we engaged with groups, communities, and organizations with a particular interest in one or more elements of regional planning. This includes municipalities, social service providers, business and development groups, economic development professionals, agricultural groups, environmental organizations, and more. In 2017, we gave presentations to and took questions from 37 different groups, reaching a total of 626 stakeholders. Many of these outreach efforts led to more sustained relationships. For example, a presentation to one civic group on Madison’s west side got members engaged enough that they invited staff back for an iPlan exercise, and staff engagement with a social issues class at Madison’s LaFollette High School prompted the teacher to start developing a curriculum for teaching about local government and decision making that could be shared with other schools.

Special Events

Photo by CARPC staff

In May, A Greater Madison Vision partnered with the Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP) to host a discussion with Dr. Chris Benner, a leading scholar of regional economic development, at University Research Park. Around 40 people attended in person, and over 100 people tuned in via a live Facebook video! We also polled over a hundred attendees of MadREP’s Economic Development and Diversity Summit about regional issues.

In August, AGMV hosted an event at the American Family Dream Bank as part of Forward Fest, the annual gathering of the technology and startup communities in Madison. Our event, called “Technology and Regional Planning,” combined an iPlan workshop with our neighborhood-building model blocks and 3D visualization tools.

These events and others helped introduce regional planning issues to audiences in new ways. Working with MadREP to unite the worlds of economic development and regional planning underscores the economic benefits of regional collaboration. Introducing planning concepts at a Forward Fest event reaches the technology and startup communities on their own turf. Our thanks to MadREP, Dr. Benner, the Forward Fest organizers, and the Dream Bank!

Social Media

A Greater Madison Vision has a very active Facebook page! In 2017, our 145 posts made 24,575 impressions, including likes, views, comments, and shares. We also cross-post on Twitter, at @AGM_Vision.

Some of our most popular social media posts have been focused on driving forces of future change, especially related to technology and transportation. Other popular posts include photos and video from our events and outreach activities.

More and more people are signing up for our monthly AGMV newsletter! More than 150 people have signed up so far. It’s one of the best ways to get a regular summary of what we’ve been up to. Click here to get signed up, or use the sidebar on this post!