Parkside students conduct economic research

Norman Cloutier


At UW-Parkside, economics professor Norman Cloutier and senior Carolyn Eastman are carrying

 on a nearly two-decade long set of research projects for the benefit of the community. The research regards what the professor referred to as the city of Racine’s “perennially high unemployment rate” and has revealed some intriguing information as to its cause.


Why Racine?

Racine’s proximity to UW-Parkside was an obvious factor in choosing it as the focus of the study, but Cloutier also stated that the city’s unemployment is not only higher “than the county it’s in but it’s also higher than many other cities in the state of Wisconsin.”

Based on data sourced from the 2015 American Community Survey, Racine city’s unemployment rate was more than two percent higher than the state’s and county’s rate.

Cloutier said his and Eastman’s research also strives to explain “the variation in unemployment across all cities in the country that are somewhat similar to Racine.” For their purposes, “similar to Racine” means having a population between 25 thousand and 500 thousand and having an African-American population of no less than 5% but no more than 75%. In all, the study concerns an amazing 676 cities.

The beginning

“The first time [the study] came up was back in 2000 when I was teaching a course in urban economics,” the professor said. “The students asked… ‘What’s the difference between Racine and Kenosha? Ostensibly they seem to be about the same city, so what explains that?’”

Cloutier’s curious class of 15 students took it upon themselves to answer that question. The study they put together, though more modest in scope than its modern counterpart, managed to attract the attention of the local press.

The professor said that—unexpectedly—five years later he was contacted by the director of the Racine County Economic Development Corporation who asked if he would be willing to “take on a community based project looking at [unemployment] in more detail.” He commented that he and his students “really spent a lot of time developing a model and using a lot of data.”

His entire 2005 class got the opportunity to present their work to a joint board of the RCEDC and the Racine County Workforce Development Center.

A new chapter

Doctor Cloutier was “unaware of how much of an effect [the study] had”. Earlier this year he was contacted by the RCWDC who was willing to pay for an updated study. Another local development organization, Higher Expectations, also provides funding.

Some interesting findings from the study so far are that education—specifically higher education over secondary education—has a significant positive effect on employment and a high number of families headed by women with children under 18 was a significant detriment to employment.

Eastman is the only student involved in the current study, but Cloutier asserted that future research opportunities will likely be open for interested students.


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