By Colin Gordon
Senior Research Consultant — Iowa Policy Project
Each year at Labor Day, we survey the “State of Working Iowa.” This annual report card examines trends in wages, job growth, and job quality in Iowa. This fall, when the Census Bureau updates its numbers on incomes and health insurance coverage, we will offer a follow-up report on those trends — and their meaning for Iowa’s working families. As in the past, we have devoted close attention through the year (see our monthly “Iowa JobWatch” release) to trends in nonfarm employment because it is an important index of economic progress and particularly of the pace of recovery from the Great Recession. Importantly as well to a public grasp of the meaning of this measure, we have had to deal with manipulation of these numbers by the Governor’s office, which minimizes losses and exaggerates gains. (We have written on the economics and politics of counting jobs, HERE and HERE.)
For these reasons, we turn our Labor Day focus on wages in Iowa. What are the long-term trends? What was the impact of the recession (and recovery) on the paychecks of working Iowans? Do age, education, or gender determine whether you gained or lost ground? What are the causes of persistent wage stagnation, and growing wage inequality?
In this online version of The State of Working Iowa 2014, many graphics that accompany our analysis have interactive elements or menus that allow readers to engage in their own investigations or comparisons — toggling between the Iowa and national numbers on key measures, for example, or choosing the points of comparison. Text in the print versions of chapters in or updates to this report may differ in minor respects from this version in references to graphics, due to the difference in print graphics from interactive graphics.
Colin Gordon, Ph.D. (History), Professor, Department of History, University of Iowa, is a Senior Research Consultant for the Iowa Policy Project. He has authored or co-authored several IPP reports, including most in the State of Working Iowa series, to advance effective and accountable policies that help working families. Among these are Wage Theft in Iowa, and Not Your Father’s Health Insurance: Discount Medical Plans and the Health Care Crisis. He also is the author of New Deals: Business, Labor, and Politics in America, 1920-1935; Dead on Arrival: The Politics of Health Care in Twentieth-Century America; and Mapping Decline: St. Louis and the Fate of the American City.