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Income Down, Poverty Rises in Iowa

Recession Impacts Evident in New Census Data
CONTACT Mike Owen, (319) 338-0773,

The national recession hit home in Iowa in 2009, dropping incomes and throwing a greater share of Iowa families into poverty.

New Census data, released Tuesday, showed more than 1 in 9 Iowans in poverty as the median income dropped by almost $900 in two years, Iowa Fiscal Partnership (IFP) analysts noted.

"These are challenging times and the new Census data bear that out," said Andrew Cannon, research associate for the Iowa Policy Project, part of the nonpartisan IFP. "Iowa families smack dab in the middle see lower incomes than they did two years ago, while their health-care costs are rising and jobs are hard to come by."

Census reported that the one-year changes in poverty and income not significant in statistical terms they are within the margin of error but noteworthy when comparing 2009 to 2007, when the last recession started. Highlights of the Iowa information, from the American Community Survey (ACS):

• Poverty rate: 11.8 percent in 2009 compared to 11.0 in 2007, and 11.5 percent in 2008. State rank: 36th highest, and lower than all neighboring states except Minnesota.
• Child poverty: 15.1 percent in 2009, up from 13.1 in 2007 and 13.8 percent in 2008. State rank: 37th highest.
• Median income is down: $48,044 in 2009 compared to $48,923 in 2007, an $879 drop in two years. That level stood at $48,794 in 2008. State rank: 27th, ahead of Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota, but behind Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin.
• Health insurance: 8.6 percent uninsured in 2009, no change from 2008. A separate Census survey recently reported that figure at 11.8 percent in a two-year average for 2008-09.

"These numbers are important, but we don't want to get so wrapped up in them that we forget they represent people, families who are struggling in the most difficult economic times many of us have ever seen," said Mike Crawford, senior associate for the Child & Family Policy Center, the other half of IFP.

"This is a time we need to be sure children have health care coverage and adequate nutrition," Crawford said.

The 11.8 percent of Iowans in poverty in 2009 comprises 342,934 people, 104,303 of them children. Crawford said the new data show that children living in poverty in Iowa were almost twice as likely to lack health insurance coverage as children living above the poverty level (7.2 percent to 3.9 percent).

"Parents in families experiencing poverty also need good supports, such as quality child care, that allow them to keep working at jobs that may not pay well," Crawford said.

A boost in the state's Earned Income Tax Credit, last changed in 2007, would be a good start, Crawford said.

Cannon agreed that the Census information carries implications for the Governor and Legislature in January.

"There are good policy options that can help these Iowa families in a time of need, as part of a balanced approach needed in the next legislative session to make sure critical supports are maintained," Cannon said.

The Iowa Fiscal Partnership is a joint public policy analysis initiative of two nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations, the Child & Family Policy Center in Des Moines and the Iowa Policy Project in Iowa City. IFP reports are at

Poverty, Income and Insurance by Congressional District
Iowa's poverty rate stood at 11.8 percent in 2009, according to the ACS figures, with 342,934 reporting that they experienced poverty. Poverty by congressional district:
• District 1: 68,643 residents, or 12.0 percent; 21,171 children, or 15.6 percent.
• District 2: 79,684 residents, or 13.3 percent; 22,255 children, or 16.1 percent.
• District 3: 68,090 residents, or 11 percent; 24,149 children; or 15.7 percent.
• District 4: 60,086 residents, or 10.5 percent; 14,257 children, or 10.8 percent.
• District 5: 66,431 residents, or 12.1 percent; 22,471 children, or 17 percent.

Iowa's median income stood at $48,044 in 2009, according to the ACS figures. By congressional district:
• District 1: $47,929.
• District 2: $47,032.
• District 3: $52,273.
• District 4: $48,280.
• District 5: $43,966.

Iowa's uninsurance level stood at 8.6 percent in 2009 (254,901 Iowans), according to the ACS figures. By congressional district:
• District 1: 8.3 percent, 48,717.
• District 2: 9.5 percent, 57,754.
• District 3: 7.9 percent, 49,116.
• District 4: 7.5 percent, 43,902.
• District 5: 10 percent, 55,412.

Health Insurance
The statewide uninsurance figures included:
• 32,312 children, or 4.6 percent of children, with 222,138 adults ages 18-64, or 12.1 percent of working-age adults.
• 9.6 percent of males uninsured, compared to 7.6 percent of females.
• African-Americans and Native Americans with the highest rates of uninsurance among racial groups, 18.7 percent and 18.8 percent, respectively.
• Hispanic/Latinos reported an uninsurance rate of 26.8 percent.

A joint effort of the Iowa Policy Project and the Child & Family Policy Center (logos).