AN OUTLOOK: Analyzing Wages

So in issue 11 I shared data from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue’s website that showed the adjusted gross income figures for Door County for the years 2007, 2011 and 2012.

Just to refresh your memories, the adjusted gross income that is reported reflects all sources of income in a household minus deductions such as IRA contributions, etc. And I have long felt that adjusted gross income is the best reflection of what any individual household has to work with in their annual budget (i.e. this is the money that buys the groceries, pays the utilities, pays the mortgage or rent, etc.).

The columns of data that were printed last issue are condensed from what appears on the Department of Revenue’s website and in the process of condensing those tables I inadvertently put the wrong data into the “Adjusted Gross Income” column for 2012 – my apologies. If you would like to see the full tables click on “reports” on the Department of Revenue’s website and then click on “income.” The AGI tables are at the top of the next screen and are available to download/view.

Now that we are caught up let’s dig into those numbers and see what we can learn.

First, let’s take a look at the ratio of population to returns filed. Note that the population figures shown are estimates based on the most recent census figures; so, the 2007 table shows an adjusted population based on the 2000 census, while the 2011 and 2012 population totals are based on the 2010 census. These figures show a loss of 2,173 full time residents between 2007 and 2012 (though there was an increase of 100 residents from 2011 to 2012).

The figures below show the number of people per return for each year in Door County compared to the same figures statewide:

What’s interesting here is that the margin between the state and the county remains basically constant.

Looking more closely at individual municipalities within Door County for 2012, you see that 11 municipalities had ratios of two (or better) while eight had ratios less than two, and of the 11 municipalities with ratios less than two, seven were in northern Door.

So what does this mean? Obviously we have a lot of single filers and one of the chief reasons probably has to do with an older population base – particularly in Northern Door. Sister Bay, for example, has a ratio of 1.24 (the lowest ratio for any municipality other than the Village of Egg Harbor), but Sister Bay also has two retirement communities within its village limits.

Finally, as I just noted, the Village of Egg Harbor actually had more filers than residents, making their ratio 0.91. There can be several explanations for this, but the most likely is that the population figures for the Village are off (note that the figures for population and number of returns were identical in 2011 and 2012).

And that brings us to the Adjusted Gross Income per Return figures for the Village of Egg Harbor. In 2011, the Village of Egg Harbor had an AGI per Return of $61,420; but in 2012 this figure jumped to $162,070 – an increase of $100,650.

Here’s another way to look at this increase: in 2011, the AGI from all the returns in the Village of Egg Harbor totaled $13,266,070. In 2012 this figure grew to $38,844,460 – an increase of $25,578,390.

Now let’s take a step back and look at the countywide AGI per Return figures compared to the same figures statewide:

So Door County, as a whole, has considerably less income than the rest of the state – something that has been well documented for decades. Still, when you look at the figures above, it seems that we are narrowing that gap, except when you consider the aberration of the Village of Egg Harbor in 2012.

Before I do this next math exercise let me say that it is entirely possible – indeed, probable – that the leap in the Village of Egg Harbor’s AGI per Return is the result of just one or two individual filers (when the sample set is small – village population of 200 – the impact of this filer(s) can be significant). This would mean that the AGI per return for most of the Village’s resident remained roughly the same.

So what if we remove the Village of Egg Harbor from the 2012 AGI per Return calculation and then re-figure the AGI per Return for 2012 countywide?

With the Village of Egg Harbor removed from the overall equation, the county’s AGI per Return drops $1,664, or 3.6 percent. And that, folks, is how much difference a few wealthy filers can make in a tiny economy on a small peninsula.