A new report released today highlights the unique challenges facing newcomers to Iowa’s workforce. Beth Pearson of the Iowa Policy Project co-authored the report titled "Young Workers and the Iowa Economy."
She says, from 2001 to 2007, the entire Iowa workforce experienced a one-percent decline in median wages – equivalent to 11-cents an hour. Meanwhile, young men between the ages of 25-and-34 experienced an 8.2% decline in wages – or about $1.35 an hour. Over the same time period, wages for women 25-to-34 fell about 14-cents.
However, Pearson says median wages for women are nearly two dollars lower than men in that age group. The report suggests that Iowa is losing higher-wage manufacturing jobs, while the new job growth in the state is occuring in sectors that offer relatively low pay.
"So, as young workers are entering the workforce in Iowa, they’re more likely to move into these new sectors that have lower wages," Pearson said. "That’s driving down their aggregate wages in comparison to their older peers in the workforce."
Pearson says her research found additional pressure is placed on younger Iowa workers in terms of health insurance and student debt. She says only 58% of 18-to-24-year-old Iowans had employment-based health insurance in 2007.
"This is a group that often loses healthcare coverage when they graduate from college or high school and age out of their parent’s policies, but we also know that – nationwide – they’re less likely to hold jobs that offer health plans and they’re least likely to be eligible for plans that their employers might offer," Pearson said.
Meanwhile, the Iowa College Student Aid Commission reports that the average student debt load at the time of graduation has climbed to $25,000. Pearson says roughly 70% of the jobs in Iowa pay less than what the Commission reccommends a job would need to pay in order for graduates to pay off that debt load in a timely manner. The Iowa Policy Project is a nonprofit research and policy analysis organization based in Mount Vernon.