Swenson: New stadiums taxpayer-subsidized amenities

June 30, 2021

David SwensonDavid Swenson, research scientist, was interviewed for a June 29 Des Moines Register story, "Soccer, hockey, boating: Why Des Moines metro cities are focusing on recreation to attract new residents."

Dave Swenson, an economic researcher at Iowa State University, said it can be difficult to truly understand the degree to which added amenities work in attracting and retaining residents. Most metro areas, he argues, have a similar "bundle of amenities," and cities tend to overvalue their impact. More often, the projects' promised economic impacts are greater than reality, at least in terms of measurable results, he said.  

So these kinds of investments, while they do have social and emotional impact, could end up leaving behind other residents, particularly those who are low-income, Swenson said.

"Conventions, new stadiums…these types of things do not generate the purported gains to the regional economy," Swenson said. "They end up being taxpayer-subsidized amenities that benefit a select subgroup of the population. And that subsect of the population are not the ones who would benefit greatly from a taxpayer subsidy."

Swenson was quoted in a July 2 Yahoo News article, "Iowa's workforce and the post-pandemic attitude shift."

The lowest wage that workers without college degrees are willing to accept for a new job is $61,483, according to a New York Fed labor market survey.

  • That's a 26% spike, or a nearly $13K increase, in just one year. The survey reflects a post-pandemic shift in workers' attitudes about what they're willing to do and the kind of pay they'll accept, Iowa State University economist David Swenson told Axios this week.

It means the cost of doing business is going up, especially for industries that have traditionally relied on low-wage earners, Swenson said.

Swenson also spoke with Barb Ickes, Quad City Times, about the continued difficulties finding workers in the restaurant industry even though Gov. Reynolds discontinued federal assistance.

Swenson also talked with Carrie Smith, Quad City Times writing for Insight, about the history of the farm debt crisis of the 1980s, the implications for the Quad City economy, and the degree to which that economy has diversified.


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