These Are The 10 Poorest Cities In Iowa For 2018

We used science and data to determine which places in Iowa are basically dead broke.

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Iowa brings to mind images of Des Moines, beautiful landscapes, and some of the best people you’ll find in the good ole US of A.

However, like all states, Iowa has certain places that are going on hard times. These places have an above average percent of people that are living in poverty, out of work, or not making as much as they should be.

With all the talk about income inequality going on around the country, we thought it prudent to take a look at the places in each state that are struggling to make it even as the economy continues to improve. So we set our sites on bringing attention to the places in Iowa that could use a helping hand.

To do so, we analyzed the newest Census data from the American Community Survey for the 82 places in Iowa with more than 5,000 people.

We were left with this set of the ten poorest places in the Hawkeye State for 2018:

  1. Keokuk (Photos)
  2. Red Oak (Photos)
  3. Centerville (Photos)
  4. Anamosa (Photos)
  5. Fairfield (Photos)
  6. Maquoketa (Photos)
  7. Ottumwa (Photos)
  8. Fort Dodge (Photos)
  9. Burlington (Photos)
  10. Ames (Photos)

Again, this isn’t a commentary on the people that live there or the vibrant culture and traditions of these places. Instead, it’s just a look at the facts.

And according to the facts, Keokuk is the poorest place in Iowa for 2018.

Rich people not your cup of tea? Feel free to check out the richest places in Iowa or the most dangerous.

For more on how we calculated the top ten, and for more information about these places, read on.

How We Determined The Poorest Places In Iowa For 2018

The first thing that comes to most people’s minds when they think about determining the poorest places is to simply the poverty rate. That is, the number of people living below a federally established level of income for a household of a certain size.

However, we don’t think that one statistic wholly encompasses what it means to be one of the ‘poorest places’. So we looked at this set of criteria from the newly released 2012-2016 American Community Survey:

  • Poverty Level
  • Median Household Income adjusted for the cost of living
  • Unemployment Rate

The ‘median household income adjusted for the cost of living’ attempts to gauge how expensive it is to live in a place and how that impacts the quality of life. For example, a town might have fewer people living below the official poverty line, but the cost of living is so high they’d still feel poor.

The unemployment rate tries to capture the prospects for improvement in the city or town. If more people are employed, the brighter the future looks and vice versa.

After we collected the data for all 82 places with more than 5,000 people in Iowa, we ranked each place from 1 to 82 for each of the criteria, with 1 being the poorest.

We then averaged all the rankings for a place into a ‘Poor Score’ with the place having the lowest overall Poor Score, Keokuk, crowned the ‘Poorest Place In Iowa For 2018’.

You can learn more about the top ten below or skip to the end to see the rankings for all 82 places.

1. Keokuk

Keokuk, Iowa

Population: 10,628
Median Income: $34,847
Unemployment Rate: 10.3%
Poverty Rate: 25.3%
More on Keokuk: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

Keokuk, unfortunately, ranks as the poorest place in Iowa thanks to combination of low pay and and a lack of jobs.

The city of 10,628 people averages the 3rd lowest median household income in Iowa and the 4th highest poverty rate. At the very least, the cost of living ranks in the bottom 15% of place in the state, so things like housing are relatively affordable.

User comment that mentions Keokuk: I grew up in Keokuk. In the 60’s it was a GREAT place to live and go to school. Problems started in the late 60’sor relocating, etc. It reached a point that continues today with buildings on Main Street that once housed thriving businesses but now long-vacant, have literally caved in from neglect! It’s heartbreaking to see, and also heartbreaking to see all of the old schools we went to being torn down for McDonalds or becoming vacant property for speculation. Crime and other social ills are rampant. Yet a lot of my dear friends and even my brother and his family still live there. I guess someone needs to stick around so there’s someone there to turn off the lights at the end.

Your comment could be here. Add a comment on a city or town.

2. Red Oak

Red Oak, Iowa

Source: Public domain

Population: 5,547
Median Income: $33,077
Unemployment Rate: 12.3%
Poverty Rate: 21.8%
More on Red Oak: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

The second poorest city in Iowa is Red Oak.

The city ranks as having the 9th highest incidence of poverty and 2nd lowest median household income. However, the unemployment rate ‘only’ ranks as the 1st highest in the Hawkeye State.

User comment that mentions Red Oak: I agree with you whole heartedly! Unlike some towns and cities…like red oak!….council bluffs really is growing!

Your comment could be here. Add a comment on a city or town.

3. Centerville

Centerville, Iowa

Population: 5,404
Median Income: $30,442
Unemployment Rate: 7.8%
Poverty Rate: 22.1%
More on Centerville: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

Placing as the third poorest city, Centerville’s median income ranks as the 1st lowest.

And that’s a sign that there’s a relatively substantial jump in the quality of the economy from second to third place on our list. The poverty rate is 22.1% and ranks near the bottom of places in the state.

But what makes up for the relatively low incomes of the city is its low cost of living. The income you do make here goes further than in most parts of the Hawkeye State.

User comment that mentions Centerville: I grew up on a farm and will likely not move back to Iowa to take it over bc the opportunities in a very rural farming community suck. Almost all of the people I used to know that still live in Centerville are either drug addicts, drunks, thieves, ignorant and bigoted red necks or a combination of the above. Rubbermaid moved out and several other factories left bc the many of people there are lazy, unreliable welfare recipients that wanted to unionize and it was cheaper for the factories to relocate. I will always have fond memories of growing up on our family farm where I learn a strong work ethic, but the lack of progressiveness and lack of interest in improving social standards coupled with the backward mentality that poverty breeds is a major turn off to anyone with intelligence to stay in these isolated rural towns.||||People like to blame corporations for their problems, but it seems to me that it is much more empowering to take personal responsibility. People allow Iowa to descend into the overall shit hole it is today bc the ignorant religious fanatics devalued quality education, which Iowa used to be famous for back in the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s. Family farms are dying bc kids don’t want to be stuck on small farms where they are more likely to go bankrupt than not bc agriculture has evolved so that one can’t really survive as full-time farmer unless they have a huge farm or hire out for planting/harvesting etc. Thanks to new farming technology, we can produce food more efficiently than any other country in the world. The downside is that prices have dropped and not kept pace with the cost of living so small farmers can no longer compete, but this is just a natural process, not the fault of corporations. Farming is a business every bit as much as it is a way of life and most small farmers lose their farms bc they suck at the business end of it which demands that one be dynamic and creative in the face of adversity, not dig in their heels and resist the force of change that they have no hope of competing with. This is the mentality of many people in Iowa, especially the rural areas, that I abhor and despise. Those that cling to the past rather than embrace and adapt will be left behind and swallowed up by those that were able to adapt and change with the times.

Your comment could be here. Add a comment on a city or town.

4. Anamosa

Anamosa, Iowa

Population: 5,459
Median Income: $38,125
Unemployment Rate: 8.5%
Poverty Rate: 22.1%
More on Anamosa: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

Anamosa ranks as the fourth poorest place in Iowa.

The town ranks as having the 5th lowest median household income and the 7th highest incidence of poverty in the state.

That being said, there’s still a ton of cultural diversity in the city as it hosts many events throughout the year.

5. Fairfield

Fairfield, Iowa

Population: 9,942
Median Income: $38,906
Unemployment Rate: 8.9%
Poverty Rate: 19.1%
More on Fairfield: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

The fifth poorest city in Iowa is Fairfield.

The city ranks as having the 7th lowest median income in the state. However, an extremely low cost of living prevents a good number of folks from living in poverty as the poverty rate only ranks as the 14th highest in Iowa.

Still not the best news for Fairfield.

6. Maquoketa

Maquoketa, Iowa

Source: Public domain

Population: 6,025
Median Income: $40,982
Unemployment Rate: 8.3%
Poverty Rate: 23.3%
More on Maquoketa: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

Maquoketa ranks as the sixth poorest place in the Hawkeye State.

It ranks as having the 5th highest incidence of poverty and the 5th highest unemployment rate.

User comment that mentions Maquoketa: Whoever conducted this survey hasn’t a clue of what they are talking about. I am proud to have lived in Maquoketa all my life.I can think of lots of other towns in Iowa that I wouldn’t spend a single night in.

Your comment could be here. Add a comment on a city or town.

7. Ottumwa

Ottumwa, Iowa

Population: 24,709
Median Income: $38,090
Unemployment Rate: 7.4%
Poverty Rate: 20.5%
More on Ottumwa: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

Ottumwa places as the seventh poorest city in Iowa.

The city of over 24,709 ranks as having the 11th highest incidence of poverty in the state. However, it has a very low cost of living which helps to pay the bills each month.

8. Fort Dodge

Fort Dodge, Iowa

Population: 24,626
Median Income: $38,658
Unemployment Rate: 7.7%
Poverty Rate: 18.0%
More on Fort Dodge: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

Fort Dodge ranks as the eighth poorest city in Iowa.

The big issue for the town is the unemployment rate which ranks as the 9th highest in the state.

User comment that mentions Fort Dodge: I am from Fort Dodge. I can absolutely assure you this town is NOT redneck. It is full of thug wannabes, criminals, and it’s terrible. Maybe do more research before you make such disgusting claims. This is an insult to actual Iowa rednecks. Along with all the other crap on your list.

Your comment could be here. Add a comment on a city or town.

9. Burlington

Burlington, Iowa

Population: 25,492
Median Income: $40,381
Unemployment Rate: 6.9%
Poverty Rate: 21.1%
More on Burlington: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

Burlington couldn’t stay out of the top ten poorest places in Iowa; it ranks number 9.

While the median income is the 11th lowest, there are a substantial number of people that live below the poverty line. Overall, Burlington ranks as having the 10th most people living in poverty of all the places we analyzed in Iowa.

10. Ames

Ames, Iowa

Source: Public domain

Population: 64,073
Median Income: $41,278
Unemployment Rate: 6.0%
Poverty Rate: 30.1%
More on Ames: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

And rounding out the top ten poorest cities in Iowa is Ames.

The city of 64,073 people ranks in the bottom 20% for both median income and poverty rate in the Hawkeye State.

There You Have It – The Poorest Places In Iowa For 2018

Like we said earlier, when we set out to identify the poorest places in Iowa, we weren’t sure what we’d encounter, but it ended up being some of the best places to live in Iowa.

When you look at the data, the cities and places mentioned above meet the criteria for being at the very bottom of the income ladder for everyone that lives there.

If you’re curious enough, here are the richest cities in Iowa, according to data:

Richest: Asbury
2nd Richest: Waukee
3rd Richest: Sioux Center

For more Iowa reading , check out:

  • 10 Safest Places In Iowa
  • 10 Worst Places To Live In Iowa
  • 10 Most Dangerous Cities In Iowa
  • Detailed List Of The Poorest Cities In Iowa

    Rank City Poverty Rate
    1 Keokuk 25.3%
    2 Red Oak 21.8%
    3 Centerville 22.1%
    4 Anamosa 22.1%
    5 Fairfield 19.1%
    6 Maquoketa 23.3%
    7 Ottumwa 20.5%
    8 Fort Dodge 18.0%
    9 Burlington 21.1%
    10 Ames 30.1%
    11 Oskaloosa 19.7%
    12 Fort Madison 15.8%
    13 Knoxville 17.3%
    14 Waterloo 16.8%
    15 Iowa City 28.0%
    16 Denison 26.9%
    17 Estherville 16.0%
    18 Clinton 16.6%
    19 Des Moines 19.0%
    20 Storm Lake 16.4%
    21 Charles City 20.4%
    22 Shenandoah 22.7%
    23 Washington 13.5%
    24 Oelwein 14.3%
    25 Cherokee 17.4%
    26 Sioux City 15.0%
    27 Clarinda 14.2%
    28 Dubuque 16.8%
    29 Davenport 16.9%
    30 Council Bluffs 14.8%
    31 Winterset 8.6%
    32 Atlantic 18.6%
    33 Creston 15.6%
    34 Mason City 13.9%
    35 Marshalltown 13.5%
    36 Indianola 13.2%
    37 Muscatine 14.9%
    38 Newton 12.6%
    39 Hiawatha 12.2%
    40 Cedar Falls 18.5%
    41 Mount Pleasant 18.7%
    42 Webster City 14.4%
    43 De Witt 14.2%
    44 Spencer 13.0%
    45 Perry 13.2%
    46 Boone 12.9%
    47 Grinnell 11.4%
    48 Harlan 13.6%
    49 Manchester 16.9%
    50 Nevada 11.7%
    51 Eldridge 8.4%
    52 Iowa Falls 7.7%
    53 Cedar Rapids 11.4%
    54 Glenwood 14.3%
    55 Sheldon 10.9%
    56 Clear Lake 14.4%
    57 Independence 9.8%
    58 Vinton 10.8%
    59 Carroll 10.7%
    60 Coralville 13.6%
    61 Le Mars 9.6%
    62 Altoona 7.0%
    63 Decorah 11.7%
    64 Pella 9.7%
    65 Marion 7.0%
    66 Waverly 7.7%
    67 Norwalk 3.0%
    68 Bettendorf 5.5%
    69 Urbandale 6.2%
    70 Ankeny 7.8%
    71 West Des Moines 6.8%
    72 Johnston 4.2%
    73 Orange City 6.8%
    74 Algona 5.0%
    75 Clive 4.0%
    76 Grimes 3.3%
    77 Pleasant Hill 5.4%
    78 North Liberty 7.2%
    79 Bondurant 4.2%
    80 Sioux Center 4.2%
    81 Waukee 5.6%
    82 Asbury 3.9%

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