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.

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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.

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1. Keokuk

Keokuk, Iowa

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 10,628
Median Income: $34,847
Unemployment Rate: 10.3%
Poverty Rate: 25.3%
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.

2. Red Oak

Red Oak, Iowa

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 5,547
Median Income: $33,077
Unemployment Rate: 12.3%
Poverty Rate: 21.8%
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.

3. Centerville

Centerville, Iowa

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 5,404
Median Income: $30,442
Unemployment Rate: 7.8%
Poverty Rate: 22.1%
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.

4. Anamosa

Anamosa, Iowa

Source: Google Maps

Population: 5,459
Median Income: $38,125
Unemployment Rate: 8.5%
Poverty Rate: 22.1%
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

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 9,942
Median Income: $38,906
Unemployment Rate: 8.9%
Poverty Rate: 19.1%
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: Wikipedia

Population: 6,025
Median Income: $40,982
Unemployment Rate: 8.3%
Poverty Rate: 23.3%
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.

7. Ottumwa

Ottumwa, Iowa

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 24,709
Median Income: $38,090
Unemployment Rate: 7.4%
Poverty Rate: 20.5%
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

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 24,626
Median Income: $38,658
Unemployment Rate: 7.7%
Poverty Rate: 18.0%
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.

9. Burlington

Burlington, Iowa

Source: Wikipedia

Population: 25,492
Median Income: $40,381
Unemployment Rate: 6.9%
Poverty Rate: 21.1%
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: Wikipedia

Population: 64,073
Median Income: $41,278
Unemployment Rate: 6.0%
Poverty Rate: 30.1%
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:

  • These Are The 10 Most Ghetto Cities In Iowa
  • These Are The 10 Most Boring Places To Live In Iowa
  • These Are The 10 Dumbest Cities In Iowa
  • Detailed List Of The Poorest Cities In Iowa

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

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