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Number of Poor Iowans Remains High, Income Growth Not Widely Shared

IOWA CITY, Iowa (September 18, 2014) — More Iowans remained in poverty four years after the recession than before, new data from the Census Bureau showed Thursday. 

The American Community Survey (ACS) indicated that 12.7 percent of Iowans — about 379,127 people — were in poverty in 2013, up from 11 percent in 2007, the year the last recession started.

“Nearly 1 in 8 Iowans were living in poverty in 2013, that’s less than $24,000 a year for a family of four and $12,000 a year for an individual. These new Census numbers highlight the fact that many people have not yet recovered from the recession and shows the need to do more to help struggling Iowans afford basics like decent housing, nutritious food, transportation and reliable child care,” said David Osterberg, founding director of the Iowa Policy Project, part of the Iowa Fiscal Partnership. 

In the region, Minnesota had the lowest poverty rate of 11.2 percent, while Illinois had the highest at 14.7 percent. Wisconsin was at 13.5 percent and Nebraska at 13.2 percent. But Iowa is still below the national rate of 15.8 percent. 

Other Key points for Iowa from the release of the 2013 ACS data:

  • Iowa’s poverty rate of 12.7 percent compared with 11 percent in 2007 and 9.7 percent in 2001. There was no change from the 2012 poverty rate of 12.7 percent
  • Child poverty was 15.7 percent in 2013 (about 111,119 children), up from 13.1 percent in 2007 and 12 percent in 2001.
  • Median income was $52,229 in 2013, changing little from the 2001 inflation-adjusted dollars, but dropping from $53,132 in 2007.

The median annual income in Iowa adjusted for inflation increased slightly between 2012 and 2013 but is down about $900 in real dollars since the start of the recession. Yet, other sources show that incomes at the top have grown and the gap between the top and bottom and top and middle have widened. 

“In addition to successful public policies like SNAP (food aid) and the Earned Income Tax Credit, increasing the federal minimum wage would be a step in the right direction to bring more Iowans out of poverty, ” said Heather Gibney, research associate at the Iowa Policy Project. “Making it a little easier for people to move up the economic ladder not only helps struggling families but also makes our economy stronger for all of us.”