AN OUTLOOK: Digesting Income Data

I confess that I am a numbers and statistics junky. Throughout the years countless columns have been dedicated to this subject and though I occasionally feel like I am inflicting my obsession on you, I still believe there are fascinating things to be learned from all this data – particularly about our peninsula and Wisconsin.

One of my favorite data sets is a report from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue entitled “Wisconsin Municipal Income Per Return Report” which details the Adjusted Gross Income (taken from the annual state income tax forms), broken down by county and municipality, for the entire state.

I am particularly fond of this report because I believe that adjusted gross income (AGI) is a more accurate reflection of a household’s annual budget. In other words, the AGI gives one of the best pictures possible of the money a household had to work with during the previous year.

Below is the Door County section from the report for 2007 (the most recent available) which shows you in snapshot fashion how the entire report (which is very large) is organized. Note that when you see Sturgeon Bay, Egg Harbor, and Forestville listed twice that one of the listings is for the township and the other is for the municipality.

So here are some things I looked at while studying this information:

• When you look at the peninsula’s population on this report and compare it to the number of returns, you see that there are 1.94 residents per return. Then take a look at a few of the individual municipalities: the city of Sturgeon Bay’s ratio is 1.71 residents per return, Sister Bay is at 1.49, the village of Forestville’s ratio is 1.43, and the village of Egg Harbor is a paltry 1.25.

What does this means? Well, anything less than 2 residents per return (a ratio of 2.0) means that there are a lot of individual filers in the municipality. So, in the communities mentioned in the paragraph above there are a high number of individual filers, which a probably a reflection of the peninsula’s older population base.

By the way, ratio for the entire state was 2.01 residents per return.

• Notice that the difference in AGI between the city of Sturgeon Bay and the Village of Sister Bay was just $1,008. A significant factor in this relatively small difference goes back to the ratios mentioned above. Sister Bay has a larger proportion of single filers than Sturgeon Bay, thus the AGI in the village is lower than if there were more two-income households.

• The average AGI for the entire state in 2007 was $48,985, so Door County’s average AGI was $4,051 less than the state (or 8 percent less).

• Of course Ephraim, with its $111,833 average AGI stands out dramatically in the table above. Interestingly, there were just 26 municipalities in Wisconsin in 2007 that had average AGI’s above the $100,000 threshold. Among these 26, Ephraim ranked 24.

• The community with the highest average AGI in 2007 was Chenequa, in Waukesha County, with a staggering $842,596. The population of Chenequa is just 591, but only 173 returns were filed from this community in 2007.

• Of the 26 communities with average AGI’s over $100,000, nine of them are in Waukesha County (Town of Delafield, Genesee, Summitt, Waukesha, Chenequa, Elm Grove, Lac La Belle, Oconomowoc Lake, and Delafield).

• There are 22 counties that had a higher average AGI that Door County, which puts the peninsula in the top 1/3 of the state – but keep in mind that our average AGI was 8 percent less than the state’s average AGI. Actually, just 12 (of 72) counties in the state had an average AGI greater than the state average.

• Lastly, there is this: despite having nine communities with average AGI’s over $100,000, Waukesha County ($75,958) ranked second in the state in 2007 to Ozaukee County ($89,593).

The other counties that had a higher average AGI than the state average (from third to 12th) were: Trempealeau, St. Croix, Dane, Washington, Calumet, Outagamie, Brown, Pierce, Winnebago, and Racine.