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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 80 places in Iowa with more than 5,000 people.
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.
What's the poorst city in Iowa? According to the facts, Keokuk is the poorest place in Iowa for 2021.
For more on how we calculated the top ten, and for more information about these places, read on.
For more Iowa reading, check out:
The 10 Poorest Cities In Iowa For 2021
Keokuk, unfortunately, ranks as the poorest place in Iowa thanks to combination of low pay and and a lack of jobs.
The city of 10,324 people averages the 2nd lowest median household income in Iowa and the 6th 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.
The second poorest city in Iowa is Centerville.
The city ranks as having the 5th highest incidence of poverty and lowest median household income. However, the unemployment rate 'only' ranks as the 7th highest in the Hawkeye State.
Placing as the third poorest city, Maquoketa's median income ranks as the 15th 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 24.64569650881438% 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.
Ottumwa ranks as the fourth poorest place in Iowa.
The town ranks as having the 8th lowest median household income and the 16th 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.
The fifth poorest city in Iowa is Fort Madison.
The city ranks as having the 10th 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 23rd highest in Iowa.
Still not the best news for Fort Madison.
Perry ranks as the sixth poorest place in the Hawkeye State.
It ranks as having the 17th highest incidence of poverty and the 6th highest unemployment rate.
Fairfield places as the seventh poorest city in Iowa.
The city of over 10,290 ranks as having the 3highest incidence of poverty in the state. However, it has a very low cost of living which helps to pay the bills each month.
Burlington ranks as the eighth poorest city in Iowa.
The big issue for the town is the unemployment rate which ranks as the 11th highest in the state.
Ames couldn't stay out of the top ten poorest places in Iowa; it ranks number 9.
While the median income is the 26th lowest, there are a substantial number of people that live below the poverty line. Overall, Ames ranks as having the most people living in poverty of all the places we analyzed in Iowa.
And rounding out the top ten poorest cities in Iowa is Clinton.
The city of 25,416 people ranks in the bottom 20% for both median income and poverty rate in the Hawkeye State.
How We Determined The Poorest Places In Iowa for 2021
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 2015-2019 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 80 places with more than 5,000 people in Iowa, we ranked each place from 1 to 80 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 2021". You can download the data here.
There You Have It - The Poorest Places In Iowa For 2021
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:
2nd Richest: Waukee
3rd Richest: North Liberty
For more Iowa reading, check out:
- Richest Cities In Iowa
- Safest Places In Iowa
- Worst Places To Live In Iowa
- Most Expensive Places To Live In Iowa
Detailed List Of The Poorest Places To Live In Iowa
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