Idaho is comprised of 44 counties – seven urban and 37 rural – as classified by the Idaho Department of Labor. Idaho fits snugly between economic urban powerhouse states Washington and Oregon and more rural neighbors Montana and Wyoming. The geographic placement of Idaho creates a unique situation.
The broad county categories of urban and rural are based mostly on population density. Though a simple classification system, it may have some significant restrictions. As time passes more people are leaving rural areas out of economic necessity such as seeking better job opportunities, education access and health care amenities. Migration out-flow data shows that rural counties like Madison and Clark have the highest rates of out-migration – up to 17 percent annually. Meanwhile, only Canyon and Ada counties have experienced an annual out-migration of only 3 to 6 percent. Though these changes mimic national trends, rural communities throughout Idaho are still active and pushing to thrive. Besides population density, there are many characteristics that separate a rural area from an urban one.
As a new resident of eastern Idaho, I am quickly learning there is much more to this traditionally rural area than I anticipated. Each region in Idaho is immensely different from one another, but eastern Idaho has vast diversity within itself. The rural, scenic, untouched beauty of Custer and Clark counties is hard for many people to find within a reasonable distance of their daily lives. In Idaho, these scenic views are just a couple of hours drive away. The Idaho Falls metropolitan area is alive, well and the forefront of economic mobility in the region. Although small compared to metro areas nationally, swift and advanced development of medical facilities, retail shopping and restaurants makes the Idaho Falls metro area an ideal place for young families or for a retirement in paradise. Along with the many economic upsides, there are also challenges for this part of the state.
Eastern Idaho is made up of nine counties; one urban and eight rural. Each county has experienced population growth within the last few years. Teton County, a rural county and close neighbor of Wyoming, has experienced a 34 percent population hike since 2010. After recently visiting the towns of Victor and Driggs, the reasons behind this rapid growth are clear. These quaint towns are infused with rich culture, diverse food and gorgeous views of the Teton Mountains with the kind of outdoor recreational activities most people dream about. For these reasons and more, there is an influx of migrants – retirees, young outdoor enthusiasts and people of all ages – swarming to these towns looking for adventure.
Migration into Idaho is, in some ways, a study of contrasts. While Idaho ranks 16th in the nation for state-to-state migration of people over 25 years old, 99 percent of that migration is into the Boise metro area. In 2014, 3,104 adults moved from another state into Idaho of which 3,066 moved to one of the six counties that encompass Idaho’s Treasure Valley. The only other places in Idaho that saw a positive flow from outside of the state were Coeur d’Alene (Kootenai County) and the Magic Valley, though still low. Because the Lewiston metro area straddles the state line, it was excluded from this analysis which examined only state-to-state and metro-to-state flows.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey
Most adults moving into Idaho had a high school diploma but no college experience nor a post-secondary degree. In fact, for every one adult with a bachelor’s degree or higher who moved in, five adults with no more than a high school diploma moved into Idaho at the same time. This ratio improves with adults who had some college experience or an associate’s degree; for each one of these adults who moved into the state, two with no more than a high school diploma also moved in.
The class of 2016 is likely to enjoy the best job market for new college graduates in 10 years — both nationally and in Idaho.
U.S. employers say they plan to hire 11 percent more college graduates this spring than last, according to a late October survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. About 42 percent of survey respondents characterized the job market for class of 2016 as “very good” or “excellent.” Two years ago, only 18 percent did. A Michigan State University survey of employers around the same time projected a 15 percent increase in hiring for college graduates.
In 2013 working women in Idaho made major wage gains. Combined with wage erosion suffered by working men significantly, those gains closed the gap in their wages with men.
Moving to 87.6 percent of the median wage paid to men, Idaho women were closer to matching men’s paychecks in all but three other states.
However, the inequity still exists. Are there favorable trends that indicate change? Is this true globally? What can be done to end the inequity? Continue reading
The education level of Idaho’s workforce rose steadily after World War II as more youth completed higher levels of education than previous generations and replaced retiring workers with less education.
Educational levels have grown more slowly in the past couple decades, and today’s retirees have roughly the same educational level as the young adult population of the generation preceding them. Continue reading
Part two of a two-part article.
Part one of this article covered the impact of economic pressures on the changing enrollments at colleges and how to increase the number of high school graduates who will go on to postsecondary education.
Not Ready for College
American high schools are graduating many students who are not prepared for college and consequently, much less likely to complete college than their better-prepared peers or take longer when they do graduate. According to the College Board, which writes and administers the SAT examination used by colleges to access candidates’ readiness for college, about a quarter of Idaho’s high school juniors who took the exam in April 2013 were prepared for college based on their scores in critical reading, mathematics and writing. The ACT, another exam commonly required for college entrance, showed only 26 percent of Idaho students hit benchmarks in all four categories—English, reading, mathematics and science.