Social & Education Policy

Young Workers and the Iowa Economy

Pearson, B.; Gordon, C.


Young Iowans entering the workforce today are confronted with more challenging economic prospects than those faced by the previous generation of young workers. Young workers in Iowa have borne the brunt of declining median wages at a time when older workers (those over the age of 35) have actually experienced modest increases. During the early ’80s, when today’s 25-year-olds were born, median hourly wages for young men were a full $0.70/hour higher (in 2007 dollars) than they are today.


Young workers are least likely to work in jobs that offer health coverage and, like their peers around the country, young Iowans have the highest rates of un-insurance of any age group in the state.

At the same time that wages and benefits have stagnated, the cost of post-secondary education has soared, making it difficult for young graduates to find jobs that make student debt payments affordable.


Young Iowans, many of whom are establishing households and families, are faced with a job market in which it costs more to prepare for a good job, and the good jobs are becoming scarcer. When wages are not enough to cover the basics, even with Iowa’s comparatively low cost of living, young families struggle to make ends meet.