EVANSVILLE

When viewers visit Evansville’s website, a photo of a children’s softball game scrolls by with the banner “best city for young families in Wisconsin.”

Nerdwallet, an online financial guidance service, dubbed the city the best for young families in 2015.

A new study by UW-Madison shows the reputation still stands.

The study examined 12 small to mid-size Wisconsin municipalities bucking a national trend of young people leaving rural areas for urban communities.

Evansville and Delavan were among municipalities that showed unusually large percentages of young adult residents compared to the rest of the state.

Municipalities studied include Delavan, West Bend, Omro, De Pere, Black Creek, Plover, Hayward, Somerset, New Richmond, Onalaska, Brooklyn and Evansville.

Results from the study reflect population trends in Rock County.

Evansville remains the fastest-growing community in Rock County, based on 2017 population estimates from the Wisconsin Department of Administration.

Evansville saw 48 more people, a 0.92 percent increase, in 2017 than the year before, according to the data. That was the largest growth of all municipalities in the county.

Young families

The population of young adults grew 40 percent in Evansville in a decade, according to the study.

The median state measure for young adult population is a decrease of 22 percent.

“It’s the perfect location for young folks raising a family,” said an Evansville resident quoted in the study.

In a span of 30 years, young adults on average made up 30 percent of Evansville’s population, according to the survey. This measure shows Evansville’s unusually high rate of retaining young people.

The state’s median rate of maintaining young adults is 24 percent.

Participants in the Evansville study said low housing costs, a strong school district and proximity to Madison and Janesville were the most attractive features for the city.

“... I love it here. It’s really friendly, and not everyone is into the small town thing, but its homey. I feel safe here. I walk around a lot at night by myself,” a participant said.

A number of participants said they want to see more racial and ethnic diversity.

The study showed 93.3 percent of the population identified as white.

Participants wanted more business and retail options, specifically citing Kwik Trip as being in high demand.

City Administrator Ian Rigg said he thinks the study was a fair evaluation of the city.

The city has worked to eliminate barriers for economic development to attract new business, Rigg said.

There aren’t many cons to attracting a young population, Rigg said. As long as a municipality is smart with planning, population growth is always a benefit.

Delavan

Despite a loss in overall population since 2010, the young adult population in Delavan grew 23 percent in a decade, according to the study.

Of the 12 communities in the study, Delavan was the most racially and ethnically diverse.

The study showed the community was 67.2 percent white, 14.1 percent Hispanic, 12.7 percent other, 2.6 percent two or more races, 1.7 percent African-American and 1 percent Asian.

Diversity was one of the strongest features noted by Delavan participants. Many acknowledged integration of the Hispanic and deaf communities into the city.

The dual language program in the Delavan-Darien School District and the Wisconsin School for the Deaf offer educational opportunities that participants felt benefited the community.

Proximity to Janesville; Rockford, Illinois; Chicago; and Milwaukee was considered an attractive feature as well.

Demand for more local business and a farmers market were indicated by participants.

Participants were split on their opinions of population growth.

“I don’t want my town to grow. I want my town to stay small. I want it stay just the way it is, but maybe have a little bit more resources for the people who are already here,” a participant said. The participant continued to say he or she did not want “outsiders” coming in.

Others thought population growth is positive.

“Population growth affecting my community is unbelievably positive. Being a small town, having the flow of people come through is important for our economy,” a participant said.

Reporter - Albany, Brodhead, Evansville, Footville, Orfordville, health

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