Family Impact Seminar looks at financial well-being of Wisconsinites

J. Michael Collins presents to policymakers at the Wisconsin State Capitol
J. Michael Collins presented about the financial health of Wisconsin households, drawing on data from a statewide survey.

The La Follette School presented a Family Impact Seminar briefing for state policymakers at the State Capitol in February. La Follette Professor J. Michael Collins presented initial findings from his current work to understand how policy impacts financial decision-making. His talk, “The Bottom Line: A Closer Look at the Financial Well-being of Wisconsinites,” helped policymakers understand how Wisconsin households are faring in today’s economy.

Collins used a new dataset from an effort at UW–Madison’s Survey Center called WisconSays, which regularly surveys a panel of nearly 4,000 Wisconsinites on how they are feeling about a range of public policy issues. Among other findings, the survey showed that many Wisconsin residents struggle with personal finances and recent inflation. For example, 52% of Wisconsinites say they would not be able to come up with $400 in an emergency. In addition to using survey findings, Collins has conducted interviews and focus groups to understand how employees and employers around the state access retirement, health care, and insurance benefits.

J. Michael Collins stands with La Follette School students and faculty in front of a Family Impact Seminar banner in the Wisconsin State Capitol
Faculty, students, and staff helped make the event a success. From left to right: Elliot Bliss, undergraduate certificate student; Angela James, outreach manager; Professor J. Michael Collins; Mary Baumgartner, master’s degree student; Tommy Jaime, faculty liaison.

In addition to over a dozen legislative attendees, Senator Rob Cowles, Department of Administration Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld, Legislative Fiscal Bureau Director Bob Lang, and Department of Financial Institutions Deputy Secretary Patty Epstein attended the talk that was livestreamed by WisconsinEye. Several undergraduate students who are working towards certificates from the La Follette School also attended the presentation on behalf of the legislative offices hosting them as interns. Following the presentation, Collins and his graduate assistant, Mary Baumgartner, fielded questions during a robust, live question-and-answer session.

This briefing is part of the La Follette School’s programming designed to help policymakers and UW–Madison faculty share high-quality, objective information to better inform policy development, implementation, and research. For over 30 years, the Family Impact Seminar program has examined how pressing policy issues affect families. Past programming has looked at workforce development, childcare, juvenile justice, health care, and homelessness.

The archived video of the presentation is available on the WisconsinEye website.

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