WI

COWS

Based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, COWS is a national think-and-do tank that promotes “high road” solutions to social problems. These treat shared growth and opportunity, environmental sustainability, and resilient democratic institutions as necessary and achievable complements in human development. COWS is nonpartisan but values-based. We seek a world of equal opportunity and security for all.

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Publications

  • The State of Working Wisconsin 2019: Fact & Figures

    • August 30, 2019
    • COWS
    • Laura Dresser & Joel Rogers

    Each year on Labor Day, COWS draws a picture of how working people in Wisconsin are faring. The long report, The State of Working Wisconsin, is released biannually on even-numbered years and looks at the economy comprehensively from a working-family perspective. In odd-numbered years, like 2019, we provide a more abbreviated and focused report, called […]

  • Leading with transit: How city leadership on transit can create more equitable, sustainable, and economically vibrant cities

    • November 8, 2018
    • COWS
    • Mayors Innovation Project

    Affordable, reliable, and equitably distributed transit can offer enormous benefits to U.S. cities, which today are growing, changing, and diversifying. Transit that is well-planned, well-funded, and well-operated can help protect the environment, improve public health, encourage economic development, raise standards of living, and reduce racial and income-driven disparities. Despite these many potential benefits, transit ridership […]

  • Investing in Wisconsin’s Future: Closing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Wisconsin’s Public Higher Education

    • October 2, 2018
    • COWS
    • Laura Dresser, Matthew Braunginn, and Emanuel Ubert.

    Securing strong economic opportunity for Wisconsin’s working families and closing racial and ethnic income disparity requires strong attention to the access and success of students of color at our state’s colleges and universities.

  • Modernizing Mitigation: A Demand-Centered Approach

    • September 24, 2018
    • COWS
    • Mayors Innovation Project

    This is a guide for practice, with relevance for technically trained staff and non-technical elected officials and other stakeholders. It is intended to inform policy around mitigating the traffic impacts from land use changes, a major factor in transportation system funding and design. It argues that conventional practice, which focuses on funding increases to roadway […]

  • State of Working Wisconsin 2018

    • August 31, 2018
    • COWS
    • Laura Dresser, Joel Rogers, Emanuel Ubert, and Anna Walther

    A decade after the Great Recession, Wisconsin’s economy, at least in employment and family income, has finally and meaningfully recovered. Unemployment and involuntary part-time employment rates are low. And, nearly a fifth of the way into this new century, the value of the median income of four-person families finally exceeds its 2000 level. This is […]

  • Equity in Apprenticeship: Equity from the Frontline: Workers’ Insight and Leadership Supports a Network of Apprenticeships in Transit

    • August 17, 2018
    • COWS
    • Michele Mackey, Laura Dresser, and Mariah Young-Jones.

    Equity in Apprenticeship is a report series from COWS at UW-Madison. It highlights programs that use apprenticeship to extend occupational opportunity to historically marginalized groups, especially people of color and women. In California, the Joint Workforce Investment in the South Bay Valley Transportation Authority has developed a web of apprenticeships and advancement opportunities. Equity in […]

  • Equity in Apprenticeship: Manufacturing Pathways in Milwaukee: Bringing Skills and Equity to Manufacturing’s Future

    • August 17, 2018
    • COWS
    • Laura Dresser, and Walker Kahn.

    Equity in Apprenticeship is a report series from COWS at UW-Madison. It highlights programs that use apprenticeship to extend occupational opportunity to historically marginalized groups, especially people of color and women. The Industrial Manufacturing Technician (IMT) program is the product of collaboration between labor and management leaders in Milwaukee’s manufacturing sector and has created a […]

  • Equity in Apprenticeship: Health Care Pathways in LA: New Apprenticeship Opportunities as an Industry Changes

    • August 17, 2018
    • COWS
    • Michele Mackey, Laura Dresser, and Mariah Young-Jones.

    Equity in Apprenticeship is a report series from COWS at UW-Madison. It highlights programs that use apprenticeship to extend occupational opportunity to historically marginalized groups, especially people of color and women. The Worker Education and Resource Center (WERC) in Los Angeles has become highly adept at preparing health care workers who share a cultural affinity […]

  • At the Wage Floor: Covering Homecare and Early Care and Education Workers in the New Generation of Minimum Wage Laws

    • May 22, 2018
    • COWS
    • Sarah Thomason, Lea Austin, Annette Bernhardt, Laura Dresser, Ken Jacobs, and Marcy Whitebook.

    In November 2012, fast-food workers in New York went on strike and the Fight for $15 was born. Over the last five years, the movement has lifted wages for more than 17 million workers across the nation by fighting for and winning numerous minimum wage policies (National Employment Law Project 2016). Substantial minimum wage increases […]

  • Improving Health Outcomes for All Through Local Policy Making

    • March 13, 2018
    • COWS
    • Katya Spear

    First featured in the March 2018 Community Health issue of The Municipality – Your Voice. Your Wisconsin. Published by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities. To be reprinted nationally in Current Municipal Problems, a quarterly, with a bound annual volume. For those interested in identifying and solving problems of local government, it is published by Thomson Rueters.

  • Wisconsin Job Watch: 4th Quarter 2017 Update

    • February 15, 2018
    • COWS
    • COWS

    In the fourth quarter of 2017, Wisconsin added 12,500 jobs, most of them in October. In contrast to the strong October, in December, Wisconsin actually lost jobs. Still, over the quarter, the state’s job base grew. Growth was driven by private sector gains, with the state adding 15,200 private jobs. The state lost 2,700 public […]

  • Wisconsin Job Watch: 3rd Quarter 2017 Update

    • November 14, 2017
    • COWS
    • COWS

    In the third quarter of 2017, Wisconsin posted modest job growth, adding just 7,300 jobs. Growth in September had to make up for job losses in the previous months. In August, the state lost 7,100 jobs – the worst month in jobs in more than a year. Private sector job growth in September was strong […]

  • Wisconsin Job Watch: 3rd Quarter 2017 Update

    • November 14, 2017
    • COWS
    • COWS

    In the third quarter of 2017, Wisconsin posted modest job growth, adding just 7,300 jobs. Growth in September had to make up for job losses in the previous months. In August, the state lost 7,100 jobs – the worst month in jobs in more than a year. Private sector job growth in September was strong […]

  • A New Jersey That Works for Working People

    • November 1, 2017
    • COWS
    • Mel Meder, Satya Rhodes-Conway, Laura Dresser, and Andrew Wolf.

    New Jersey’s economy has not recovered from the recession like it could – and should – have. Economic difficulties that began with losses in manufacturing jobs throughout the 1980s have persisted. Despite a diverse population and a shift in land use from sprawling suburban growth to more infill development, job numbers and GDP are growing […]

  • The Economic Contribution of Wisconsin Immigrants

    • November 1, 2017
    • COWS
    • COWS

    Criminalizing hard working families and falling into irrational fear harms all Wisconsin families and the Wisconsin economy. Immigrants are a core part of the Wisconsin economy and contributing to this state through taxes, education, and self-owned businesses. The state should be pursuing ways to welcome and build the skills of this community.

  • Wisconsin Job Watch: 1st Quarter 2017 Update

    • September 18, 2017
    • COWS
    • COWS

    After an inconsistent 2016, Wisconsin started off 2017 with a modest job growth across the first quarter. January through March, the state added 12,800 jobs. The growth was concentrated in January and February and offset job losses of 3700 jobs in March. Over the quarter, private sector creation compensated for the loss of almost 7000 […]

  • Human Capital in Context: Policies that Shape Urban Labor Markets

    • September 1, 2017
    • COWS
    • Laura Dresser

    Laura Dresser (2017), Human Capital in Context: Policies that Shape Urban Labor Markets. In Jobs and the Labor Force of Tomorrow: Migration, Training, Education, edited by Michael Pagano University of Illinois Press: Chicago, IL.

  • The State of Working Wisconsin 2017: Facts & Figures

    • August 31, 2017
    • COWS
    • Joel Rogers, and Laura Dresser.

    For more than two decades now, annually, on Labor Day, COWS reports on how working people are faring in the state. The State of Working Wisconsin, released biannually on even-numbered years since  1996, is our long-form report, and looks at the economy comprehensively from a working-family perspective. In odd-numbered years, also biannually, we provide a […]

  • Pulling Apart 2017: Focus on Wisconsin’s 1 Percent – August 2017

    • August 1, 2017
    • COWS
    • Staff Report

    As the economy grows, the gains are concentrated on the state’s richest residents. Inequality is on the rise, both nationally and in Wisconsin. Over the last 40 years, Wisconsin’s richest residents have experienced dramatic increases in income, yet the rest of the state’s residents have experienced little or no income growth. The widening chasm between […]

  • Local Policies for Greenhouse Gas Reduction

    • June 9, 2017
    • COWS
    • Mayors Innovation Project

    President Donald Trump’s announced withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement is a clear shirking of responsibility on behalf of the federal government, but across the country, organizers, activists, mayors, governors and others are only increasing their commitment to the principles of the agreement. Mayors and their cities have many ways to contribute […]

  • When Work is Not Enough: Toward Better Policy to Support Wisconsin’s Working Families

    • May 11, 2017
    • COWS
    • Laura Dresser, Javier Rodriguez, and Mel Meder.

    In Wisconsin, policy makers seem to increasingly assume that work, and work alone, can provide a decent standard of living. However, working families continue to face a slew of challenges – low wages, inadequate benefits, insufficient hours – generated by the very jobs that are supposed to be the answer. This report highlights the disconnect between […]

  • Wisconsin Job Watch: 4th Quarter 2016 Update

    • March 21, 2017
    • COWS
    • Staff Report

    Wisconsin ended 2016 with 2.93 million jobs. In terms of job growth, the year was not particularly strong or consistent. Wisconsin’s December job total is just slightly above the level reached at the end of the summer. In the last quarter of 2016, the Wisconsin labor market grew by 10,500 jobs, or an average of […]

  • Moving Apprenticeship into Manufacturing’s Future: Industrial Manufacturing Technician

    • February 21, 2017
    • COWS
    • Rhandi Berth, Laura Dresser, and Emanuel Ubert.

    Manufacturing in the Midwest continues to evolve. Firms increasingly rely on highly specialized and flexible processes, deploying new technology that redefines workers’ jobs and the skills needed for them. In Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership (WRTP)/BIG STEP has spearheaded the creation of a new registered apprenticeship in response to these dynamic forces. Industrial Manufacturing Technicians (IMT)are now […]

  • Oregon Care Economy: The Case for Public Care Investment

    • February 1, 2017
    • COWS
    • Laura Dresser, Mary C. King, and Raahi Reddy.

    Oregon’s current care economy is vast and largely invisible. Currently underinvested, it creates and exacerbates poverty and inequality. We are missing the opportunity to invest adequately in the care economy in order to build a stronger, more inclusive economy and better life for us all. This report seeks to bring care work into view.

  • Wisconsin’s Extreme Racial Disparity 2017

    • January 12, 2017
    • COWS
    • Laura Dresser, Javier Rodriguez S.

    Wisconsin has the regrettable distinction of ranking among the worst states in the nation in terms of racial equality. Various aspects of the disparity – from education to jobs and income to incarceration – have been documented consistently for more than a decade. These disparities are gaining increasing attention from activists and policy makers. Even […]

  • Job Quality in WIOA: Three Ways to Steer Investments towards High Road Jobs

    • November 30, 2016
    • COWS
    • Laura Dresser, Hannah Halbert, and Stephen Herzenberg.

    Implementation of the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is well underway. This process creates unprecedented opportunity to adopt policies and practices that boost job quality. Connecting workers with the best quality job possible serves job seekers better. More stable work means higher income, longer job tenure, and better predictability for managing the tensions between […]

  • State of Working Wisconsin 2016

    • September 2, 2016
    • COWS
    • Laura Dresser, Joel Rogers, and Javier Rodriguez S.

    In The State of Working Wisconsin 2016, COWS finds that the long shadow of the Great Recession is finally lifting in Wisconsin. The state has more jobs than ever before, unemployment rates have fallen to pre-recession levels, and workers that want full-time work are having an easier time finding it. Labor market opportunities are more […]

  • A Pittsburgh that Works for Working People

    • May 26, 2016
    • COWS
    • Satya Rhodes-Conway, Laura Dresser, Mel Meder, and Mary Ebeling

    During the 20th Century, Pittsburgh was known for the steel industry and the broad middle class prosperity that was shared by many residents. Today, Pittsburgh is in the process of rebuilding its economy around new sectors, such as tech start-ups. The city has found some success in this economic transition, and the population has stabilized […]

  • The State of Working Wisconsin 2015: Facts & Figures

    • September 4, 2015
    • COWS
    • Laura Dresser and Joel Rogers, with Javier Rodriguez and Siying Fu

    For Labor Day weekend, COWS has released The State of Working Wisconsin 2015 Facts & Figures, an overview of the critical issues facing working people in the state. From the perspective of working Wisconsin, the news this weekend is not good. Wisconsin faces slow growth, extreme racial disparity in unemployment, long-term stagnation in wages, and […]

  • A District That Works: Policies to Promote Equity and Job Quality in our Nation’s Capital

    • July 22, 2015
    • COWS
    • Satya Rhodes-Conway, Peter Bailon, Sam Munger, Chris Reynolds

    The District of Columbia is going through a period of great transformation. While it has successfully strengthened its fiscal health and its economy and population have grown, its prosperity has not been evenly distributed. However, it is not too late for the District to adopt measures that strengthen low income communities and communities of color […]

  • State of Working Wisconsin – 2014

    • August 30, 2014
    • COWS
    • Staff Report

    The State of Working Wisconsin 2014 uses the best and recent data available on jobs and wages to describe the serious economic challenges that Wisconsin continues to face.

  • Pulling Apart: Focus on Wisconsin’s 1%

    • February 28, 2014
    • COWS
    • Staff Report

    Income inequality continues to grow in Wisconsin and the United States, producing an ever-widening chasm between the rich and poor. Over the last 40 years, Wisconsin’s richest residents have experienced dramatic increases in income, while Wisconsinites not among the very highest earners saw their incomes stagnate or decline. Wisconsin’s growth and prosperity are not being […]

  • A Divest & Invest Guide for Local Governments

    • February 26, 2014
    • COWS
    • Mayors Innovation Project

    There is a growing toolbox of measures cities can take to combat climate change. One of these tools, divestment from fossil fuels, is ethical, viable, and a moral imperative. Divestment is strengthened when the funds divested are redirected to climate-positive projects. Divestment and re-investment help reduce the carbon risks of cities. Taking inventory of what […]

  • Divestment from Fossil Fuels: A Guide for City Officials and Activists

    • February 26, 2014
    • COWS
    • Mayors Innovation Project

    Climate change represents the single greatest long-term threat to our cities and citizens. The health, wealth, infrastructure and ability to maintain basic services of cities will increasingly be degraded as our planet warms and our weather worsens. Yet local governments are currently sharing in the profits made by the fossil fuel industry – investing in […]

  • Opportunities to Advance the Building Energy Efficiency Market in the Health Care Sector

    • January 7, 2013
    • COWS
    • John Cleveland and James Irwin

    This report presents recommendations on potential high impact philanthropic investments to advance deep building energy efficiency improvements at scale within the healthcare sector. It is one of five reports being developed for a coalition of six philanthropies that are collaborating to see what they – and others – might do to rapidly increase and scale […]

  • The State of Working Wisconsin: 33,000 Missing Jobs: Wisconsin’s Lagging Sectors

    • January 1, 2013
    • COWS
    • Staff Report

    The 2007 recession, the Great Recession, is now six years behind us. But the aftermath is still painfully evident throughout the nation. For those still struggling to find a decent job, for those who can’t secure the hours they need to make ends meet, for those who have watched their resources and meager unemployment benefits […]

  • Greener Reality: Jobs, Skills, and Equity in a Cleaner U.S. Economy

    • September 27, 2012
    • COWS
    • Laura Dresser & Joel Rogers

    Human capital — workers’ skill and knowledge and creativity — has always anchored our vision of the green economy. But as a darkening economic and political horizon circumscribes this country’s exuberant green imaginings, plotting a course to our common future requires a new reckoning. Greener Pathways (2008) and Greener Skills (2010) charted the intersection of […]

  • A Green Career Pathways Framework: Postsecondary and Employment Success for Low-Income, Disconnected Youth

    • July 27, 2011
    • COWS
    • The Corp Network

    One of the most promising developments of the past several years is the emergence of a green economy. With environmental awareness growing across this country, green skills are being added to existing occupations (in fields such as energy and engineering) and new jobs that are primarily “green” are rapidly emerging. Green jobs — jobs that […]

  • Greener Skills: How Credentials Create Value in the Clean Energy Economy

    • March 25, 2010
    • COWS
    • Sarah White, Laura Dresser, and Joel Rogers

    Everyone wants to coax green shoots from the economic badlands. And as the promise of green jobs has generated a flood of workforce initiatives, most everyone would like to put their hands on an atlas of green programs, skills, and credentials. But after two years of discussion and research, we’ve concluded that not only is developing […]

  • Mapping Green Career Pathways: Job Training Infrastructure and Opportunities in Wisconsin

    • January 25, 2010
    • COWS
    • Sarah White and Kate Gordon

    The current economic and energy crises place us at a crossroads. One path leads backward toward the kind of carbon-intensive, high-waste, low-road economic development strategies we have been following for decades. The other leads into a new clean energy future, where acting sustainably requires not only choosing lower-carbon, more environmentally friendly energy and fuel, but […]

  • Summary Proceedings of the Women, Jobs, and Wisconsin’s Green Economy

    • December 14, 2009
    • COWS
    • Staff

    On Earth Day, 2009, US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis hosted with Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, a national roundtable discussion on Women and Green Jobs, held in Washington, DC. For the first time, leading women from labor, business, academia, government and the nonprofit sectors from around the country […]

  • Estimating Jobs from Building Energy Efficiency

    • April 30, 2009
    • COWS
    • Eric Sundquist

    What numbers and kinds of jobs result from investment in building energy efficiency (EE)? This report, based on joint work by COWS (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and the Powell Center for Construction and Environment (University of Florida), suggests a way to get at least policylevel answers to this question for state and local programs. Program designers, armed […]

  • Greening Wisconsin’s Workforce

    • April 10, 2009
    • COWS
    • Sarah White

    Escalating economic crisis and a bold federal response have intensified the regional promise of green jobs — that a green wave might lift all boats, rebuilding a prosperous industrial heartland on a sustainable bedrock of energy efficiency and renewable energy. Recession, climate change, and energy insecurity may not signal the end of the middle-American dream. […]

  • Greener Pathways: Jobs and Workforce Development in the Clean Energy Economy

    • March 12, 2008
    • COWS
    • Sarah White and Jason Walsh

    Greener Pathways provides information to help states craft clean energy agendas that simultaneously meet emerging industry demand; train and support workers; and create good, family-supporting jobs. A series of key principles helps focus and animate green jobs policy…