The odd role that Iowa and New Hampshire play in the presidential nomination process leads inevitably to questions about the representativeness of these places. And it will of course come as no surprise to learn that Iowa is substantially whiter and less urban than America as a whole. But in terms of its broad economic characteristics what’s interesting about Iowa is that in an increasingly unequal America the Hawkeye State is unrepresentatively average.
According to the Census Bureau, Iowa had less poverty in 2009 than the American average, with 11.8 percent living below the federal poverty line compared to 14.8 percent nationwide. But Iowa also had a below-average median income. Iowa has fewer high school dropouts than average, but also fewer college graduates. Iowa has an unusually large share of its population in owner-occupied housing, but the houses Iowans own are worth less than the average American house. As reflected by this kind of data, Iowa has one of the lowest gini coefficients in America. When we’re talking about a Republican Party primary, my guess is that none of this makes a difference since you wouldn’t expect GOP contenders to be spending a lot of time worrying about income inequality, high school dropouts, or affordable housing in any state but it’s interesting nonetheless.