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Nation’s Breadbasket Heads to Soup Kitchen as Inequality Grows

Two Recoveries  A look at U.S. income inequality

Since the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009, the top 1 percent of Americans captured 93 percent of real income growth, according to an analysis of Internal Revenue Service data by Emmanuel Saez, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley. Rural states like Iowa, with its egalitarian self-image, have experienced some of the most dramatic increases in inequality in the U.S.

Iowa employment picture belies growing divide
O'Brien County
On average, an acre of land in O’Brien County was worth more than an acre in any other Iowa county in 2011, according to the Iowa Land survey. Income inequality there is also one of the fastest growing among U.S. counties. Photographer: Elizabeth Campbell/Bloomberg
Iowa’s historically low levels of unemployment, poverty and income inequality have been growing at an equal or faster rate compared to the U.S. average in recent years.
Unemployment, poverty and income inequality charts
1 – Income distribution is measured by the Gini coefficient, which ranges from 0 to 1. A Gini score of 1 would represent perfectly unequal distribution – in which one individual collects all the income.
U.S. counties with fastest growing income inequality
Rural counties top the list when looking at growth in the Gini index of income inequality from 2000 to 2010.
County Table
Land bonanza undercuts Iowa’s egalitarian roots
Iowa’s rising inequality can partially be accounted for by record-high commodity prices. The price for corn and soybeans have made farmland more valuable – and less attainable. The average value of an acre has more than tripled in the past
10 years.
Corn and soybean prices per bushel
Corn and soy prices
Iowa average farmland values
Farmland Value Table
Older farmers are putting off retirement to reap the benefits of record commodity prices, while younger, less established farmers are being shut out of the market.
Iowa farmland ownership by age group
Age of farmland owners
Land values grew by more than 28 percent in every Iowa county in 2011, but actual value varied widely according to estimates from the U.S. Census of Agriculture and the Iowa Land Survey conducted by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
Average farm land values by county in 2011
Map key
Map key
Highest value
O'Brien County
$9,513 per acre, up 33.1% from 2010 and 41.8% higher than the Iowa average of $6,708.
Lowest value
Decatur County
$2,721 per acre
Fastest growing
Scott County
Up 37.7% from 2010
Sources: Bloomberg, Iowa State University Extension & Outreach, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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