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Report: Wisconsin ranked 3rd in nation in social capital

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(The Center Square) – A new report says Wisconsin is among the best states in the country when it comes to social connections, mental health and social capital.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty on Thursday released its report on social capital and societal implications.

“Wisconsin ranks 3rd in social capital, behind only Minnesota (2nd) and Utah (1st) and far above other Midwestern states like Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana,” the report states.

“Loneliness and mental health issues have radically increased in American society and declining social capital is a root cause,” WILL’s Miranda Spindt said. “WILL is doing a deep dive into why social capital is so important to advance a pluralistic society, what Wisconsin is doing right, but also what needs to change. It’s critical that we advance this discussion and debate for the betterment of communities in Wisconsin and across America.”

Social capital is a measure of seven different things from family unity to social support and social support.

Wisconsin gets top-10 marks in five of the seven categories but is not top ranked in any.

The WILL report builds on the warning and findings from the U.S. Surgeon General that says 79% of young adults aged 18 to 24 reported being lonely compared to 41% of adults older than 66 years old.

The report specifically drills down on two trends in Wisconsin, marriage and divorce, and the number of children born into single family homes.

“Wisconsin has generally followed national trends in terms of marriage and divorce,” the report’s authors wrote. “Divorce rates have trended down slightly from a high point in the early 1980s. However, importantly, this has been accompanied by a more dramatic decline in marriages. Today, 25% of adults reach 40 years old without ever marrying. By comparison, it was just 6% in 1980.”

The report goes on to note the drop in marriage rates comes with a rise in the number of children born to single mothers.

“This trend of declining marriages has led to more children being born out of wedlock in Wisconsin,” the report adds. “The percentage of babies born to single mothers in 1990 was about 24.3%. In 2020, this increased to about 37.4% – a 13 percentage point increase.”

Milwaukee has the fifth most children born to single mothers, as researchers said they expected. But the report also shows that rural counties, Langlade, Forest and Vilas counties in northern Wisconsin top the list of single mother births.

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