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SD’s wealth is in finance. South Dakotans think it’s in agriculture

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Joshua Haiar

This interview is from SDPB's daily public-affairs show, In the Moment, hosted by Lori Walsh.

The recent publication of the Pandora Papers revealed South Dakota as a financial and tax haven. But a 2020 poll conducted by South Dakota State University shows South Dakotans don’t see their state that way. Respondents overwhelmingly believe that agriculture, not finance, dominates the state’s economy.

David Wiltse is an associate professor of political science and director of the SDSU Poll. He says the state’s financial sector began to take off after law changes in the 1980s.

"And since then, just the sheer scope of the financial industry has just been growing and growing and growing and growing to levels that are just inconceivable. Just the money that's tied up in trusts in South Dakota, is equal to the gross domestic product of Denmark.”

Trusts based in South Dakota hold more than $360 billion dollars.

Wiltse says agriculture is visible, employs more people than the financial industry, and the benefits are more widely spread. He thinks that may explain the poll results.

Megan hosts All Things Considered and the SDPB News podcast.