States of the Presidential Race: Iowa

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January 13, 2016

The Iowa caucus, for both the Republican and Democratic parties, is on February 1. Iowa’s population is relatively small and mostly white, and its economy is performing better than most states. Here’s what you need to know about the state hosting the first caucus. 

Demographics

Iowa’s voting-age population (just under 2.4 million in 2014) is overwhelmingly non-Hispanic white (89.4 percent). However, the non-white voting-age population nearly doubled from 2000 to 2014, from 5.9 percent to 10.6 percent, and it likely will double again to 18.1 percent by 2030. Still, Iowa’s large non-Hispanic white majority deviates from the national profile: non-Hispanic whites constituted 65.1 percent of the US voting age population in 2014 and will make up 57.7 percent by 2030.

Iowa demographics

Learn more about Iowa’s population with Urban’s Mapping America’s Futures.

Economy

Unemployment rate: 3.4% (December 2015)*

Peak unemployment rate during the Great Recession: 6.6% (May-August 2009)

Average weekly earnings, private employment: $796 (December 2015)*

House prices compared with one year ago: +3.3% (third quarter 2015)

Iowa’s 3.4 percent December unemployment rate* was the sixth lowest among the 50 states and well below the national rate (5.0 percent). Iowa’s relatively strong job situation is not a new phenomenon. The state weathered the Great Recession far better than most. Its unemployment peaked at only 6.6 percent—by comparison, the national peak was 10.0 percent—and the last time Iowa’s unemployment rate was above the national average was January 1986.

updated Iowa employment data

Learn more about Iowa’s economy with Urban’s State Economic Monitor.

Health care and the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Iowan enrollment in the ACA marketplace was relatively low in 2015, reflecting (among other issues) the lack of insurance options, with only one or two insurers per rating area. Roughly 34,000 Iowans used tax credits to enroll in marketplace plans, though an estimated 173,000 residents were eligible. Relative to the national average, Iowa also had one of the largest increases in lowest-cost silver plan premiums—considered a good standard of plan affordability—on the marketplace this year, seemingly due to adjustments for low premiums in 2015.

Iowa ACA

Learn more about Iowa and the ACA from Urban’s Health Policy Center.

Higher education

Tuition at Iowa’s public four-year colleges increased only 1 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars over the past five years, while the price increased an average of 13 percent across the nation. However, public two-year college tuition in Iowa rose 11 percent, compared with 14 percent nationally. And Iowa’s community colleges had above-average cost and enrollment. Thus, proposals for free community college would have a significant impact in Iowa.

Iowa community college

Learn more about Iowa and higher education with Urban’s Financing Public Higher Education dashboard.

*These numbers were updated on January 27, 2016 to reflect the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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