Connecting state and local government leaders

3 Data Snapshots That Take the Pulse of the ‘Heartland’ States

Alton, Illinois

Alton, Illinois Shutterstock


Connecting state and local government leaders

Looking at indicators of the economy, health and human capital across 19 states in the middle of America.

Although there’s no official designation for where the nation’s “heartland” is located, for the purposes of studying a broad swath of the nation’s middle section, the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program included 19 states, from Michigan, Minnesota and North Dakota in the north to Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi in the south.

As the Walton Family Foundation is convening its first Heartland Summit in Bentonville, Arkansas this week, Brookings released a report, “State of the Heartland: Factbook 2018,” that looks at a “series of 26 socioeconomic measures focused on how the defined region’s economy has been performing since the recent financial crisis” and includes “17 indicators are used to benchmark the region’s standing on four sorts of drivers of strong outcomes.”

The report has three key takeaways:

  • The Heartland economy is doing better than is sometimes portrayed.
  • The Heartland, however, is not monolithic: Its economy varies widely across place.
  • Serious deficits in the region’s human capital and innovation capacity pose the most serious challenges to improving future prosperity

Perusing the Heartland factbook, Route Fifty picked out three areas to highlight:

(Brookings Institution / Walton Family Foundation)

Jobs at ‘Young Firms’: According to the Heartland factbook: “Jobs at private-sector firms less than five years old are a key measure of economic vitality as reflected by entrepreneurship. By that measure, entrepreneurship is a weak spot for the region.”

(Brookings Institution / Walton Family Foundation)

Share of Adults with a BA or Higher: According to the Heartland factbook: “To the extent that high education levels drive productivity and growth, it is a problem that the Heartland lags the rest of the country in bachelor’s degree attainment.”

(Brookings Institution / Walton Family Foundation)

Adult Obesity: According to the Heartland factbook: “In addition to bringing an array of health consequences, obesity negatively impacts worker and firm productivity, resulting in significant economic costs. Obesity also undercuts economic inclusion, as its burdens fall disproportionately on low-income populations, exacerbating inequality.”

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s and is based in Seattle.

NEXT STORY: Where Job Prospects Improve for Those With a College Degree