Is Iowa typical?
Artist: Grant Wood. Source: Wikipedia
Iowa enjoys a funny place in American culture. Home to the first-in-the-nation political caucus, the state is often derided as quirky and out of touch—unlike big-city dominated states like Minnesota and Illinois to the north and east.
It’s true that the Des Moines metro area only contains about 20% of Iowa’s population, versus Minneapolis and Chicago that have over 2/3rds of their States’ people. It’s also true that the state has a small minority population, and fewer than 4% are recent immigrants. But Iowa has a diversified economy, dominated by manufacturing, biotech, and finance. Maytag had its headquarters in Newton, Iowa, as does Winnebago—the RV maker.
Actors John Wayne and Johnny Carson came from Iowa. So did Norman Borlaug, the father of the green revolution in plant genetics, whose scientific research may have saved over a billion lives, worldwide. The Iowa Writer’s Workshop is a literary treasure. Demographically and geographically, Iowa is in the middle of the country—ranked 30th in population and 26th in area. It’s in the middle economically, too, with a median income ranked 24th.
It’s easy to deride rural Midwestern states as “flyover country.” But that’s a mistake. Ethanol subsidies may be a foolish and wasteful economic policy—and something that politicians unfortunately kowtow to—but Iowa is more than corn and hogs. Dear Abby and Ann Landers were born in Iowa. It’s no wonder that the state leaves us with so many questions.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer