July 17, 2018

Benchmarking 2018: Utah vs Idaho

Working Families Benchmarking Project 2018: Utah vs Idaho

New Economic Benchmarking Report Finds Utah Ahead of Idaho by Most Metrics of Economic Opportunity and Standard of Living


More Education = Higher Standard of Living

    Salt Lake City, July 17, 2018 - Voices for Utah Children released today its annual economic benchmarking report that evaluates how the Utah economy is experienced by median- and lower-income families by benchmarking Utah against another comparable state.  This year's report compares Utah to Idaho. Idaho is an interesting comparison because of its geographic proximity to Utah — and thus similar regional identity — as well as its cultural similarities and the strength of its economy in recent years.

The Link Between Education and Income

One of the most important findings of the report is that Utah enjoys a higher standard of living -- higher hourly wages, higher household incomes, lower poverty rates -- as a result of its higher levels of educational attainment. While Utah ranks 27th in the nation for median hourly wages, Idaho is 43rd and has many more workers earning poverty level wages than Utah and the nation. Utah's position in the middle of the states is significant because it demonstrates that Utah has risen in recent years into the ranks of middle-wage states after decades of being considered more of a lower-wage state. This is attributable to many factors, but foremost is Utah's level of education attainment, which is well above Idaho's.

Can Utah Become a High Wage State?

Now that Utah has achieved the status of middle-wage state, should we declare, “Mission Accomplished”? Or is Utah in a position, like Colorado and Minnesota before us, to become over time a high-wage state and set our sights on taking the necessary steps today to achieve that goal over the years and decades to come, even as we deal with the challenges and opportunities presented by our ongoing demographic transformation?
The main lesson is clear from three years of Working Families Benchmarking Project reports comparing Utah to Colorado, Minnesota, and now Idaho: Higher levels of educational attainment translate into higher hourly wages, higher family incomes, and an overall higher standard of living. The challenge for policymakers is to determine the right combination of public investments and economic development policies that will enable Utah to continue our progress and achieve not just steady job growth, but also a rising standard of living for average and below average working families.

The full report is available as a pdfpdf at this link.

ID UTp5StandardofLivingSummaryID UTp5StandardofLivingSummary