Tale of Two States: New Iowa Ranking Highlighting Disparities

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Another list, a new ranking. A recent study lists Iowa as the best place in the country to live, which is a recognition economic developers say matters, as it helps bring new people and new economic development to the state.

"There's all these great things that are happening here in this region, in this state, and this helps build on that story, and that story we can tell across the state, across the country, and across the world," says CEO of the GreaterĀ  Des Moines Partnership, Jay Byers.

U.S. News & World Report ranked every state on eight criteria, and Iowa's cumulative score put the state at the top. Iowa finished in the top ten in five of the eight criteria and was number one for infrastructure.

However, some say that story is a tale of two states, highlighting Iowa's strengths but not its weaknesses. Marvin DeJear, director of the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families, says, "there is still a long way to go when it comes to where everyone in Iowa is experiencing that number one ranking."

DeJear says the report reflects disparities for Iowans of color. He says the unemployment rate for minorities is at least two times the average unemployment rate for the state. The report also ranks Iowa 27th in terms of the income gap by race.

The difference can also be seen in graduation rates at five of the state's largest high schools. According to the Iowa Department of Education, minority students are less likely to graduate than their white peers. The largest disparity was in the Waterloo Community School District, where 81% of white students graduate, while minority students are only 71% as likely.

As Iowa's racial demographic continues to become more diverse, DeJear says the state needs to continue improving in those areas in order to keep its ranking.

"You have to make sure you look at it from a lens of will everyone have an opportunity to be successful based on these decisions."