The poverty rate in Iowa has increased to 11.1% from 7.8% in 2000-2001, according to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau. The state’s median household income of $45,671 has remained statistically unchanged since 2000-2001, with the state ranking 29th nationally. Furthermore, the percentage of Iowans without health insurance has remained the same since 2000-2001, at 9.1%, and 25.7% are covered by a public health insurance plan. The Iowa Policy Project (IPP) attributes the increase in poverty to the slow recovery from the 2001 recession, which has not only caused more Iowans to fall into poverty but has also shown no improvement for middle-income Iowans or the uninsured. The IPP found that 320,500 Iowans lived in poverty in 2004-05, while 264,000 were without health insurance.
Iowa has typically been a low poverty state, and there is cause for concern that the poverty rate is closing in on the national level. David Osterberg, executive director of the IPP, stated that “the best we can say is that things are not worse for some Iowans. The report found that while Iowa has typically been a state with low poverty, the recent trend is concerning because the poverty rate is now closing in on the national level. The report shows that things are not worse for some Iowans, but more are in poverty, and there is no improvement for middle-income Iowans or the uninsured.
The increase in poverty has been most significant for children under the age of 18, with the poverty rate for this group increasing from 8.2% to about 13.7% in 2004-05. Additionally, the number of Iowans dependent on public health insurance has increased by 17% since 2000-01. The share of Iowans with job-based health insurance has also fallen to 66%, down from 69.5% five years ago. The IPP called for policies that address the root causes of poverty, such as low wages and insufficient education, as well as the high cost of healthcare. The report also suggested that policies to improve access to health insurance would help to reduce poverty. The IPP recommends that policymakers consider expanding Medicaid eligibility to cover more low-income adults, providing incentives for small businesses to offer health insurance, and creating a public health insurance option. The IPP argues that such policies would not only help to reduce poverty and increase access to healthcare but would also support the economy by increasing spending and reducing healthcare costs for businesses.