Idaho’s population has grown since the last recession, rising to 1.65 million people in 2015, a 5.3 percent increase since 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The number of households increased by 3.6 percent from 2010 to close to 590,000 in 2015 according to American Community Survey one-year estimates. Much of the growth has been concentrated in southwestern Idaho due to the expanding Boise metropolitan area. How has income fared in the same time period?
The U.S. Bureau of Economic analysis estimates that with the exception of a period of decline during the recession of 2007-09, per capita personal income has grown steadily over the past decade. When adjusted for inflation, the real per capita income grew by 9.2 percent from 2010 to 2014. The Inflation-adjusted median household income likewise grew by 11 percent between 2010 and 2015.
The biggest winners in 2010-2015 income growth were households in Caribou County which saw an increase in median income of 29 percent. Clark County households had the biggest decline in median income at 18 percent. There was no discernible relationship between population growth and income growth. However, the data shows a clear relationship between income growth and the dominance of manufacturing and mining jobs in the area. Caribou County is known for its dominant phosphate manufacturing industry which accounts for 23 percent of all jobs in the county. In Clark County however, manufacturing accounts for just 2 percent.
Median household income between 2010 and 2015 increased in nearly all age groups. The median household income increased for 25 to 44 year olds by 12.3 percent while the 65+ age group saw an increase by 10.7 percent and showed the most growth in the past year (2014-2015) when compared with all other dominant age groups. Despite this, older households tend to have a lower household income than other age groups. Married couple families saw an income growth of 14 percent while single mom households saw a more modest income growth of 3 percent. As is the case with the rest of the nation, the current economy increasingly rewards those with greater degrees of skills and education so that college-educated Americans have an economic advantage over other adults. Idaho residents without a college degree tend to earn substantially less and this wage gap has widened over time. In 2005, the earnings gap between a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree was $14,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars. By 2015, the gap had widened to $16,700.
Pew Research recently conducted a study on the decline of middle class – middle income families in the United States. The study is available at http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/09/the-american-middle-class-is-losing-ground. The study goes into more in depth analysis into the movement up and down the income ladder and the changing composition of the middle income class. While this article doesn’t carry out that analysis, by assessing income growth patterns of counties that saw increases and decreases at different demographic levels, a similar conclusion is inferred: high income growth has generally favored the manufacturing industry – particularly the growing strain of high-skilled manufacturing jobs – and the married, the young and the college-educated population.
Esther.Eke@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 236-6710 ext. 4331