When you picture Iowa, you probably envision cornfields – and for good reason. The Hawkeye State has some of the richest soil in the nation, making it an agricultural powerhouse. With more than 30 million acres of farmland and over 92,000 farms, Iowa leads the nation in the production of corn, soybeans, pork and eggs. Total agriculture-related economic output was over $112 billion in 2012, with the industry responsible for 1 out of every 5 jobs in the state. Even more impressive is the fact that one Iowa farmer feeds on average 154 people globally and the state supplies 7% of the country’s food.
What you might not know is that Iowa farming is also closely tied with the green energy economy, as the state is #1 in the production of the renewable fuels ethanol and biodiesel as well as #1 in the use of wind-generated electricity for agriculture at 28%. Yet despite all these #1 rankings, the state’s biggest industry by dollar amount is manufacturing, which employs more than 200,000 Iowans and, at over $25 billion per year, represents the biggest contributor to a statewide gross domestic product of more than $142 billion. Top manufactured products include machinery (such as tractors), fabricated metals (including aircraft and engine parts) and processed foods.
Add in service industries and a surprisingly large tech sector – the state hosts data centers for Microsoft, Google and IBM and has more than 76,000 people employed in tech jobs – and Iowa’s economy becomes more diversified than you might think. In 2014, it was ranked #18 out of the 50 states in terms of overall economic health by Business Insider.
Located in America’s “Heartland,” Iowa is flanked by two of the nation's greatest rivers, the Mississippi on the east and the Missouri on the west. It shares borders with six other Midwestern states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota. To gauge its size, Iowa ranks 26th in the nation for land area and 30th for population, with just over 3 million people. It’s also solidly in the middle of the pack for income, with a median household income of roughly $50,000 (24th highest in the nation) in 2014.
On the education front, more than 90% of Iowans are high school graduates, placing the state third in the nation. Yet higher education trails behind other states. Approximately 25% of residents hold a bachelor’s degree (34th in the U.S.), and 7% have a graduate degree (43rd in the U.S.). Iowa is also one of the less diverse states, with 91% of residents identifying as white. Hispanics and blacks make up just 5% and 3% of the population, respectively. As for ethnicities represents, Germans come in first with a whopping 29% of Iowans claiming this heritage.
In 2015, the median home value in Iowa was $130,076 – roughly $50,000 less than the national average – and the median rental price was $787. Home prices in Iowa vary depending on where you want to live, however. Iowa City – home to the University of Iowa’s over 30,000 students – is among the most expensive cities, with a median home value of $189,975 and median rental price of $955. Its most affluent suburb, Swisher, has the highest median home value in the state at $289,216. Yet in many other parts of the country, that figure would be an incredible bargain.