Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy

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The Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy (CROWE) is a research center within the Department of Economics at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. It states its purpose as "providing objective economic research to support economic development and policy evaluation for important state-level issues" as well as to be "a crucial link tying UW-Madison to the broader policy and business community."[1] CROWE is led by Noah Williams, the Juli Plant Grainger Professor of Economics at UW-Madison. Funding for CROWE came from the National Science Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the Charles Koch Foundation. Its launch was announced in September of 2018.[2][3]

News and Controversies

Badgercare study with WILL

CROWE and Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) published a paper claiming expanding Medicaid in the state (BadgerCare) would cost taxpayers a whopping $600 million. Wisconsin Republican State Senators Dave Craig, Duey Stroebel, and Chris Kapenga held a news conference to unveil the study. Conservative media groups such as the MacIver Institute circulated the report.[4]

Numerous experts called out the study: “This study has several methodological and analytical flaws that substantially compromise the validity of its conclusions,” Donna Friedsam, health policy programs director of UW-Madison’s Population Health Institute, told the Wisconsin State Journal[5]; “Incredibly sloppy & dishonest work with pathetic attempts at empirical estimation. This is so below your abilities @Bellmanequation Makes me sad that program with [a] reputation for careful policy work @WIeconomics is associated with this garbage. Numerous inaccuracies in [the] report,” Tim Classen, Loyola University of Chicago economist tweeted.[6] UW Health Policy published a rebuttal by Professors and researchers from the UW Madison Population Health Institute claiming that "that the contents do not justify the authors’ conclusion."[7]

Minnestoa's Minimum Wage Paper Widely City by SPN Groups

Williams published a policy brief via CROWE, "Evidence on the Effects of Minnesota’s Minimum Wage Increases," which came to the conclusions that: Minnesota's increase in minimum wage "led to employment losses in Minnesota" and that "part of the increased wage costs employers faced have been passed on to consumers through higher prices."[8] The paper was cited by the Media Research Center's,[9] as well as two State Policy Network associated groups; the Illinois Policy Institute[10] and the Center of the American Experiment both on their website[11] and in a newspaper.[12]

A study by the Economic Policy Institute came to a different conclusion than CROWE's did. The report, "As Wisconsin’s and Minnesota’s lawmakers took divergent paths, so did their economies" states "the results could not be more clear: by virtually every available measure, Minnesota’s recovery has outperformed Wisconsin’s."[13]

William's ties to Walker

Williams served as an adviser to Gov. Scott Walker's presidential campaign.[14] Williams contacted Walker's campaign using his UW-Madison email address to tell express interest in “finding out more about any possibilities to get involved in aiding or advising, particularly with the Governor’s potential Presidential campaign.” Scot Ross of One Wisconsin Now -- the group that broke the story of William's job inquiry -- stated “Here we have a Professor at UW-Madison who has defended Scott Walker’s failed tax policies soliciting Gov. Scott Walker’s staff for opportunities for him to help boost Scott Walker’s political ambition. It’s yet another example of how reality is much different than the Republican rhetoric about what’s happening on college campuses in Wisconsin.”[15]


CROWE was founded with $240,000[16] from the Charles Koch Foundation and $200,000 from the Bradley Foundation.[17]


As of February 2019:[18]

  • Noah Williams, Director
  • Junjie Gup, Staff Economist
  • Simeon Alder, Staff Economist
  • Ananth Seshadri, Faculty Fellow
  • James Walker, Faculty Fellow
  • Matt Wiswall, Faculty Fellow
  • Molly Laboda, Center Administrator

CROWE also employs project and research assistants.


  1. Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy organizational website, accessed Feb. 26 2019
  2. Katie Vaughn New center focuses on the Wisconsin economy COLLEGE OF LETTERS & SCIENCE, Sept. 18, 2017
  3. CROWE Support organizational, accessed Feb 26, 2019
  4. Chris Rochester In Case You Missed It: Medicaid Expansion, DOT Projects, and Wisconsin’s Tax Ranking MacIver Institute Feb. 22, 2019
  5. Riley Vetterkind Republicans, touting conservative study, warn against Medicaid expansion Wisconsin State Journal Feb 20 2019
  6. David Armiak Koch and Bradley Groups Battle Medicaid Expansion Proposed by Gov. Tony Evers ExposebyCmd Feb 21, 2019
  8. Noah Williams Evidence on the Effects of Minnesota’s Minimum Wage Increases CROWE June 20, 2019
  9. Daniel Mitchell More Evidence That Higher Minimum Wages Mean Fewer Jobs, Less Opportunities CNS News January 15, 2019
  10. Vincent Caruso Estimates from the governor’s office suggest the minimum wage increase will add $1.1 billion to the state payroll, courtesy of Illinois taxpayers] Illinois Policy Feb 19, 2019
  11. John Phelan Evidence suggests that, compared to Wisconsin, Minnesota’s minimum wage hikes have cost restaurant jobs and lowered youth employment Center of the American Experiment, July 3, 2018
  12. John Phelan John Phelan: We want higher wages, but higher minimum-wage laws are not the answer Aug 2, 2018
  13. David Cooper As Wisconsin’s and Minnesota’s lawmakers took divergent paths, so did their economies Economic Policy Institute, May 8, 2018
  14. AP Says Tax Credit Has Spurred Manufacturing Job Growth Associated Press April 19, 2017
  15. Mike Browne Records Reveal UW-Madison Professor Defending Scott Walker’s Failed Tax Policies Sought Role With Scott Walker’s Presidential Campaign One Wisconsin Now May 31, 2017
  16. Pat Schneider UW-Madison’s new CROWE think tank funded by Koch, Bradley Cap Times August 31, 2017
  17. Bradley Foundation 2017 report organizational report, accessed Feb 26, 2019
  18. CROWE People organizational site, accessed feb. 2019