An assistant professor at the University of Idaho told the Moscow League of Women Voters on Wednesday that Idaho is on par with the rest of the country when it comes to ensuring its children graduate with a high school diploma.
Unfortunately, Paul Lewin, an extension specialist and assistant professor in agricultural economics and rural sociology at the UI, said Idaho fails after that, as the state falls well short in getting those students to continue their education and obtain college degrees.
Lewin spoke at length about the state’s shortcomings during a meeting on education, gender inequalities and economic resilience in Idaho.
Lewin said the state ranks second to last in the nation in per capita income and leads in percentage of minimum wage workers in its workforce. The maximum per capita income in the United States in 2013 was approximately $63,000 and the lowest sat around $35,000. Idaho came in around $36,000, below the national average of $42,000, according to graphs Lewin displayed.
Idahoans with college degrees earn less than their peers across the United States, he said, and as the level of education goes up, the gap increases.
On average, agriculture and forestry workers in Idaho get paid better than their peers across the nation, as the average per capita income for those workers in Idaho sits around $31,000, approximately $3,000 more than the national average. Other major industries in the state such as construction, public administration, retail trade and education services, however, all pay less than the national average, he said.
Lewin added that women are paid less than men in all categories in Idaho for median earnings. The average per capita income for a man with a doctorate in Idaho is approximately $65,000, while the average for a woman is $60,000.
Nationally, those averages are $100,000 for men and $95,000 for women, according to Lewin’s graphs.
“Women make less money always – doesn’t matter where they are,” he said.
Idaho workers in high-wage industries, such as management, are typically less educated and paid less than the U.S. average, he said.
Lewin said the problem is worsened by the fact that many of the state’s college graduates tend to relocate out of state, where higher paying jobs can be found.
“So, it is not a very nice picture, but that doesn’t mean there is not hope,” he said.
He said the state needs to find ways to invest more in both education and industry, as supporting education without creating high paying jobs will result in a “brain drain” problem.
He said investing in education will help the state economically and societally, as higher education brings along with it increased income, stable employment, less unemployment, and reductions in poverty and crime, he said.
College graduates have also been shown to increase the productivity of employees who dropped out of high school, and they can bring a competitive advantage to larger firms looking to hire, Lewin said.
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