Poorest Cities In Iowa For 2023

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

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 Iowa 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 poorest places in Iowa.

To do so, we analyzed the newest Census data from the American Community Survey for the 83 places in Iowa with more than 5,000 people.

Here are the ten poorest places in Iowa for 2023:

  1. Centerville
  2. Denison
  3. Keokuk
  4. Anamosa
  5. Fairfield
  6. Ames
  7. Perry
  8. Charles City
  9. Maquoketa
  10. Waterloo

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, Centerville is the poorest place in Iowa for 2023.

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:

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 2023. This is our tenth time ranking the poorest places in Iowa.

The 10 Poorest Cities In Iowa For 2023

1. Centerville

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

The city of 5,353 people averages the 2nd lowest median household income in Iowa and the 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.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,353
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Income: $39,447 (2nd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 8.0% (6th highest)
Poverty Rate: 27.4% (highest)
More on Centerville:  Data | Photos

Centerville, IA

2. Denison

The second poorest city in Iowa is Denison.

The city ranks as having the 4th highest incidence of poverty and 6th lowest median household income. However, the unemployment rate ‘only’ ranks as the highest in the Hawkeye State.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 8,323
Rank Last Year: 15 (Up 13)
Median Income: $45,204 (6th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 11.8% (highest)
Poverty Rate: 25.2% (4th highest)
More on Denison:  Data | Photos

Denison, IA

3. Keokuk

Placing as the third poorest city, Keokuk’s median income ranks as the 4th 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 20.355163210839663% 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.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 9,977
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 1)
Median Income: $44,770 (4th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.7% (7th highest)
Poverty Rate: 20.4% (5th highest)
More on Keokuk:  Data | Photos

Keokuk, IA

4. Anamosa

Anamosa ranks as the fourth poorest place in Iowa.

The town ranks as having the 16th 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.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,332
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 1)
Median Income: $48,750 (16th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 8.7% (4th highest)
Poverty Rate: 17.1% (16th highest)
More on Anamosa:  Data | Photos

Anamosa, IA

Source: Wikipedia

5. Fairfield

The fifth poorest city in Iowa is Fairfield.

The city ranks as having the 3rd 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 19th highest in Iowa.

Still not the best news for Fairfield.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 9,653
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 2)
Median Income: $43,006 (3rd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 5.7% (22nd highest)
Poverty Rate: 16.5% (19th highest)
More on Fairfield:  Data | Photos

Fairfield, IA

6. Ames

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

It ranks as having the 3rd highest incidence of poverty and the 10th highest unemployment rate.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 65,522
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 4)
Median Income: $54,339 (33rd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.8% (10th highest)
Poverty Rate: 26.4% (3rd highest)
More on Ames:  Data | Photos

Ames, IA

Source: Public domain

7. Perry

Perry places as the seventh poorest city in Iowa.

The city of over 7,836 ranks as having the 15th highest incidence of poverty in the state. However, it has a very low cost of living which helps to pay the bills each month.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 7,836
Rank Last Year: 13 (Up 6)
Median Income: $53,283 (29th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 9.3% (3rd highest)
Poverty Rate: 17.5% (15th highest)
More on Perry:  Data | Photos

Perry, IA

8. Charles City

Charles City ranks as the eighth poorest city in Iowa.

The big issue for the town is the unemployment rate which ranks as the 34th highest in the state.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 7,399
Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 2)
Median Income: $44,775 (5th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 4.5% (34th highest)
Poverty Rate: 19.0% (9th highest)
More on Charles City:  Data | Photos

Charles City, IA

9. Maquoketa

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

While the median income is the 27th lowest, there are a substantial number of people that live below the poverty line. Overall, Maquoketa ranks as having the 11th most people living in poverty of all the places we analyzed in Iowa.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 6,123
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 5)
Median Income: $51,958 (27th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.7% (11th highest)
Poverty Rate: 18.9% (11th highest)
More on Maquoketa:  Data | Photos

Maquoketa, IA

Source: Public domain

10. Waterloo

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

The city of 67,695 people ranks in the bottom 20% for both median income and poverty rate in the Hawkeye State.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 67,695
Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 2)
Median Income: $49,430 (20th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.7% (12th highest)
Poverty Rate: 16.4% (20th highest)
More on Waterloo:  Data | Photos

Waterloo, IA

Methodology: How We Determined The Poorest Places In Iowa for 2023

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 2017-2021 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 83 places with more than 5,000 people in Iowa, we ranked each place from 1 to 83 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, Centerville, crowned the “Poorest Place In Iowa For 2023”.

Summary: The Poorest Places In Iowa For 2023

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: Sioux Center
    3rd Richest: Pella

For more Iowa reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Poorest Places To Live In Iowa

Rank City Population Poverty Rate
1 Centerville 5,353 27.4%
2 Denison 8,323 25.2%
3 Keokuk 9,977 20.4%
4 Anamosa 5,332 17.1%
5 Fairfield 9,653 16.5%
6 Ames 65,522 26.4%
7 Perry 7,836 17.5%
8 Charles City 7,399 19.0%
9 Maquoketa 6,123 18.9%
10 Waterloo 67,695 16.4%
11 Fort Madison 10,340 14.9%
12 Red Oak 5,576 15.8%
13 Burlington 24,160 18.0%
14 Clarinda 5,498 11.7%
15 Clinton 24,651 17.8%
16 Ottumwa 25,379 16.0%
17 Iowa City 74,240 26.8%
18 Spencer 11,292 14.5%
19 Grinnell 9,481 12.5%
20 Oskaloosa 11,552 19.0%
21 Oelwein 5,961 17.0%
22 Newton 15,688 12.4%
23 Creston 7,594 14.7%
24 Cherokee 5,141 19.7%
25 Storm Lake 11,166 11.2%
26 Marshalltown 27,570 14.6%
27 Osceola 5,412 20.3%
28 Davenport 101,725 15.8%
29 Fort Dodge 24,826 18.3%
30 Des Moines 213,545 15.3%
31 Hiawatha 7,184 12.5%
32 Muscatine 23,759 15.7%
33 Algona 5,407 11.0%
34 Council Bluffs 62,617 12.7%
35 Iowa Falls 5,154 9.3%
36 Sioux City 85,081 14.7%
37 Atlantic 6,795 18.9%
38 Dubuque 59,379 12.3%
39 Cedar Falls 40,500 17.1%
40 Webster City 7,825 10.1%
41 Estherville 5,904 15.7%
42 Glenwood 5,224 11.1%
43 Carroll 10,261 9.7%
44 Washington 7,314 11.0%
45 Mason City 27,385 10.9%
46 Knoxville 7,537 12.0%
47 Cedar Rapids 136,512 11.2%
48 Pleasant Hill 10,203 6.8%
49 Manchester 5,077 13.1%
50 Mount Pleasant 8,996 12.1%
51 Sheldon 5,475 16.0%
52 Grimes 14,842 6.8%
53 Decorah 7,767 9.3%
54 Waverly 10,278 10.4%
55 Adel 5,867 7.9%
56 Altoona 19,345 6.1%
57 Indianola 15,544 9.3%
58 Marion 41,023 7.1%
59 Clear Lake 7,673 6.0%
60 Orange City 6,214 7.1%
61 Nevada 7,017 10.5%
62 Winterset 5,309 11.5%
63 Spirit Lake 5,301 8.5%
64 Windsor Heights 5,208 7.6%
65 Le Mars 10,462 7.7%
66 Independence 6,088 10.1%
67 Coralville 22,226 9.6%
68 Bettendorf 38,631 7.2%
69 Boone 12,509 6.9%
70 West Des Moines 67,640 6.6%
71 Johnston 23,418 9.8%
72 Norwalk 12,592 4.0%
73 Urbandale 45,037 5.9%
74 Polk City 5,386 4.0%
75 Waukee 23,441 4.8%
76 Ankeny 66,346 4.2%
77 Asbury 5,795 2.9%
78 North Liberty 19,976 4.5%
79 Eldridge 6,634 1.6%
80 Clive 18,323 3.2%
81 Pella 10,414 2.8%
82 Sioux Center 8,090 5.3%
83 Bondurant 7,163 6.0%