Poorest Cities In Iowa For 2020

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

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Editor’s Note: This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out we updated this article for 2020. This is our sixth time ranking the poorest places in Iowa.

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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 2020.

Rich people more 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.

If you're looking for something more national, check out the poorest states in America or the poorest cities in America.

For more Iowa reading, check out:

The 10 Poorest Cities In Iowa For 2020

Keokuk, IA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 10,412
Rank Last Year: 2 (Up 1)
Median Income: $39,058 (6th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 10.7% (2nd highest)
Poverty Rate: 23.8% (4th highest)
More on Keokuk:  Data | Photos

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

The city of 10,412 people averages the 6th 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.

Red Oak, IA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,434
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 1)
Median Income: $38,876 (4th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 8.1% (7th highest)
Poverty Rate: 20.2% (8th highest)
More on Red Oak:  Data | Photos

The second poorest city in Iowa is Red Oak.

The city ranks as having the 8th highest incidence of poverty and 4th lowest median household income. However, the unemployment rate 'only' ranks as the 7th highest in the Hawkeye State.

Maquoketa, IA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 6,026
Rank Last Year: 13 (Up 10)
Median Income: $44,307 (17th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.1% (9th highest)
Poverty Rate: 22.4% (5th highest)
More on Maquoketa:  Data | Photos

Placing as the third poorest city, Maquoketa's median income ranks as the 17th 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 22.35885001731901% 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.

Fairfield, IA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 10,216
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 1)
Median Income: $36,266 (2nd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 9.0% (3rd highest)
Poverty Rate: 15.8% (28th highest)
More on Fairfield:  Data | Photos

Fairfield ranks as the fourth poorest place in Iowa.

The town ranks as having the 2nd lowest median household income and the 28th 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.

Ottumwa, IA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 24,676
Rank Last Year: 5 (No Change)
Median Income: $40,200 (8th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.6% (10th highest)
Poverty Rate: 17.4% (15th highest)
More on Ottumwa:  Data | Photos

The fifth poorest city in Iowa is Ottumwa.

The city ranks as having the 8th 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 15th highest in Iowa.

Still not the best news for Ottumwa.

Centerville, IA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,487
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 2)
Median Income: $33,682 (1st lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 4.8% (27th highest)
Poverty Rate: 20.9% (6th highest)
More on Centerville:  Data | Photos

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

It ranks as having the 6th highest incidence of poverty and the 27th highest unemployment rate.

Anamosa, IA

Source: Wikipedia
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,461
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 1)
Median Income: $38,919 (5th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 8.2% (5th highest)
Poverty Rate: 15.9% (25th highest)
More on Anamosa:  Data | Photos

Anamosa places as the seventh poorest city in Iowa.

The city of over 5,461 ranks as having the 25th highest incidence of poverty in the state. However, it has a very low cost of living which helps to pay the bills each month.

Fort Madison, IA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 10,614
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 3)
Median Income: $42,282 (11th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 8.8% (4th highest)
Poverty Rate: 16.1% (21st highest)
More on Fort Madison:  Data | Photos

Fort Madison ranks as the eighth poorest city in Iowa.

The big issue for the town is the unemployment rate which ranks as the 4th highest in the state.

Oskaloosa, IA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 11,505
Rank Last Year: 7 (Down 2)
Median Income: $44,708 (18th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.2% (11th highest)
Poverty Rate: 20.4% (7th highest)
More on Oskaloosa:  Data | Photos

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

While the median income is the 18th lowest, there are a substantial number of people that live below the poverty line. Overall, Oskaloosa ranks as having the 7th most people living in poverty of all the places we analyzed in Iowa.

Burlington, IA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 25,127
Rank Last Year: 10 (No Change)
Median Income: $45,841 (22nd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.2% (12th highest)
Poverty Rate: 19.2% (10th highest)
More on Burlington:  Data | Photos

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

The city of 25,127 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 2020

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 2014-2018 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 2020". You can download the data here.

There You Have It - The Poorest Places In Iowa For 2020

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: Waukee
    2nd Richest: Asbury
    3rd Richest: Bondurant

For more Iowa reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Poorest Places To Live In Iowa

Rank City Population Poverty Rate
1 Keokuk 10,412 23.8%
2 Red Oak 5,434 20.2%
3 Maquoketa 6,026 22.4%
4 Fairfield 10,216 15.8%
5 Ottumwa 24,676 17.4%
6 Centerville 5,487 20.9%
7 Anamosa 5,461 15.9%
8 Fort Madison 10,614 16.1%
9 Oskaloosa 11,505 20.4%
10 Burlington 25,127 19.2%
11 Ames 65,937 28.4%
12 Fort Dodge 24,417 17.8%
13 Storm Lake 10,672 16.8%
14 Clinton 25,637 15.8%
15 Iowa City 74,566 27.6%
16 Waterloo 68,134 17.2%
17 Perry 7,667 16.4%
18 Knoxville 7,200 17.8%
19 Creston 7,832 17.5%
20 Charles City 7,413 24.8%
21 Newton 15,167 13.8%
22 Des Moines 215,932 17.2%
23 Grinnell 9,223 13.3%
24 Denison 8,358 16.0%
25 Oelwein 6,050 14.3%
26 Estherville 5,859 14.5%
27 Davenport 102,318 16.6%
28 Clarinda 5,398 10.9%
29 Dubuque 58,340 16.0%
30 Washington 7,345 14.3%
31 Osceola 5,021 17.4%
32 Spencer 11,092 13.4%
33 Marshalltown 27,275 13.0%
34 Hiawatha 7,281 12.1%
35 Sioux City 82,486 14.5%
36 Mason City 27,309 12.8%
37 Council Bluffs 62,478 13.5%
38 Cedar Falls 41,202 19.3%
39 Atlantic 6,709 14.0%
40 Muscatine 23,864 15.8%
41 Webster City 7,779 13.1%
42 Winterset 5,203 9.2%
43 Coralville 20,645 16.1%
44 Glenwood 5,276 15.5%
45 Indianola 15,653 10.6%
46 Algona 5,455 7.8%
47 Mount Pleasant 8,528 13.5%
48 Cedar Rapids 131,360 11.6%
49 Boone 12,529 10.1%
50 Orange City 6,115 7.5%
51 Vinton 5,124 14.0%
52 Nevada 6,798 13.3%
53 Carroll 9,899 8.6%
54 Sheldon 5,132 11.6%
55 Waverly 10,075 8.7%
56 Independence 6,027 10.5%
57 Eldridge 6,399 7.4%
58 Decorah 7,765 11.3%
59 Manchester 5,037 12.5%
60 Iowa Falls 5,124 6.5%
61 Le Mars 9,894 9.4%
62 Marion 38,699 7.2%
63 Clear Lake 7,644 10.0%
64 Pella 10,273 7.7%
65 Spirit Lake 5,021 7.7%
66 West Des Moines 64,400 6.7%
67 Bettendorf 35,793 5.9%
68 Pleasant Hill 9,736 4.7%
69 Ankeny 59,152 6.1%
70 Altoona 17,936 7.2%
71 Urbandale 42,881 5.6%
72 Norwalk 10,568 3.6%
73 Sioux Center 7,499 5.7%
74 Johnston 20,767 3.9%
75 Clive 17,195 4.3%
76 North Liberty 18,357 4.8%
77 Grimes 11,930 2.7%
78 Bondurant 5,826 5.2%
79 Asbury 5,469 3.7%
80 Waukee 19,344 4.5%

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