Poorest Cities In Iowa For 2021

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 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the poorest places in Iowa.

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.

Here are the ten poorest places in Iowa for 2021:

  1. Keokuk
  2. Centerville
  3. Maquoketa
  4. Ottumwa
  5. Fort Madison
  6. Perry
  7. Fairfield
  8. Burlington
  9. Ames
  10. Clinton

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.

Rich people more your cup of tea? Feel free to check out the best 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 2021

1. Keokuk

Keokuk, IA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 10,324
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Income: $39,779 (2nd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 9.3% (2nd highest)
Poverty Rate: 21.5% (6th 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 10,324 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.

2. Centerville

Centerville, IA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,458
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 4)
Median Income: $34,805 (lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.1% (7th highest)
Poverty Rate: 22.6% (5th highest)
More on Centerville:  Data | Photos

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.

3. Maquoketa

Maquoketa, IA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 6,010
Rank Last Year: 3 (No Change)
Median Income: $44,610 (15th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.7% (8th highest)
Poverty Rate: 24.6% (3rd highest)
More on Maquoketa:  Data | Photos

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.

4. Ottumwa

Ottumwa, IA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 24,545
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 1)
Median Income: $41,722 (8th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.0% (12th highest)
Poverty Rate: 16.6% (16th highest)
More on Ottumwa:  Data | Photos

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.

5. Fort Madison

Fort Madison, IA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 10,513
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 3)
Median Income: $42,694 (10th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 8.9% (3rd highest)
Poverty Rate: 15.9% (23rd highest)
More on Fort Madison:  Data | Photos

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.

6. Perry

Perry, IA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 7,599
Rank Last Year: 17 (Up 11)
Median Income: $44,146 (14th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.4% (6th highest)
Poverty Rate: 16.6% (17th highest)
More on Perry:  Data | Photos

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.

7. Fairfield

Fairfield, IA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 10,290
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 3)
Median Income: $40,920 (4th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 8.7% (4th highest)
Poverty Rate: 14.5% (3highest)
More on Fairfield:  Data | Photos

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.

8. Burlington

Burlington, IA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 24,974
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 2)
Median Income: $47,540 (23rd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.3% (11th highest)
Poverty Rate: 20.7% (7th highest)
More on Burlington:  Data | Photos

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.

9. Ames

Ames, IA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 66,023
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 2)
Median Income: $48,105 (26th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 5.8% (14th highest)
Poverty Rate: 28.0% (highest)
More on Ames:  Data | Photos

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.

10. Clinton

Clinton, IA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 25,416
Rank Last Year: 14 (Up 4)
Median Income: $44,094 (13th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 5.7% (15th highest)
Poverty Rate: 17.3% (14th highest)
More on Clinton:  Data | Photos

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:

    Richest: Bondurant
    2nd Richest: Waukee
    3rd Richest: North Liberty

For more Iowa reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Poorest Places To Live In Iowa

Rank City Population Poverty Rate
1 Keokuk 10,324 21.5%
2 Centerville 5,458 22.6%
3 Maquoketa 6,010 24.6%
4 Ottumwa 24,545 16.6%
5 Fort Madison 10,513 15.9%
6 Perry 7,599 16.6%
7 Fairfield 10,290 14.5%
8 Burlington 24,974 20.7%
9 Ames 66,023 28.0%
10 Clinton 25,416 17.3%
11 Waterloo 67,912 17.4%
12 Fort Dodge 24,278 16.0%
13 Anamosa 5,476 14.2%
14 Charles City 7,396 24.4%
15 Denison 8,337 20.4%
16 Storm Lake 10,558 16.4%
17 Oskaloosa 11,511 20.1%
18 Iowa City 74,950 27.6%
19 Creston 7,784 17.5%
20 Estherville 5,796 15.1%
21 Red Oak 5,362 12.6%
22 Des Moines 215,636 16.1%
23 Newton 15,164 14.2%
24 Davenport 102,169 16.6%
25 Atlantic 6,669 18.7%
26 Spencer 11,052 12.1%
27 Marshalltown 27,053 14.8%
28 Grinnell 9,031 13.3%
29 Hiawatha 7,333 14.4%
30 Washington 7,313 15.3%
31 Clarinda 5,388 10.6%
32 Dubuque 58,196 15.9%
33 Mason City 27,200 11.9%
34 Osceola 5,103 16.7%
35 Knoxville 7,192 14.9%
36 Sioux City 82,531 14.2%
37 Cedar Falls 40,983 18.0%
38 Muscatine 23,774 14.1%
39 Oelwein 5,979 11.8%
40 Council Bluffs 62,355 12.8%
41 Glenwood 5,326 15.3%
42 Coralville 21,103 16.1%
43 Algona 5,447 9.6%
44 Mount Pleasant 8,581 13.2%
45 Vinton 5,103 14.2%
46 Cedar Rapids 132,301 12.5%
47 Indianola 15,802 13.5%
48 Carroll 9,904 9.5%
49 Iowa Falls 5,122 10.4%
50 Manchester 5,019 15.2%
51 Grimes 12,839 5.6%
52 Winterset 5,260 6.3%
53 Webster City 7,732 13.8%
54 Orange City 6,127 5.8%
55 Independence 6,056 9.9%
56 Sheldon 5,128 10.9%
57 Marion 39,328 7.9%
58 Waverly 10,094 9.1%
59 Decorah 7,701 9.2%
60 Nevada 6,754 12.4%
61 Clear Lake 7,597 6.7%
62 Boone 12,487 8.0%
63 Pleasant Hill 9,871 5.2%
64 Le Mars 9,941 9.0%
65 Spirit Lake 5,069 7.9%
66 Eldridge 6,529 5.9%
67 Bettendorf 35,919 6.1%
68 Urbandale 43,441 5.5%
69 West Des Moines 65,606 5.9%
70 Ankeny 61,938 5.3%
71 Clive 17,167 4.8%
72 Norwalk 10,978 4.5%
73 Sioux Center 7,534 7.2%
74 Altoona 18,458 5.8%
75 Asbury 5,557 5.0%
76 Johnston 21,406 4.1%
77 Pella 10,231 3.7%
78 North Liberty 18,829 5.8%
79 Waukee 20,785 3.2%
80 Bondurant 6,191 1.8%

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