What does it cost to live in Iowa?

Cost of Living is Much Higher than the Poverty Level | Photo courtesy of Iowa Policy Project

This week, the Iowa Policy Project released a fifth update to their report The Cost of Living in Iowa. The data is very telling for a number of reasons — it helps relay the struggles of working families to make ends meet and confirms the need for safety net programs to help families survive.

The research takes a bare bones monthly family budget and identifies the actual costs to cover the monthly expenses. The budget consists of housing, utilities, health care, transportation, child care, food, and household necessities. It does not include items such as vacation, entertainment, education expenses, savings, loans or other debt, or social/recreational travel. Data was analyzed and reported based on varying family structures (assuming non-senior households with at least one working adult) and variance to account for cost of living differences among Iowa counties.

The results in this year’s update confirm those found in previous years — families are struggling. The research found that the following wages are required to make ends meet:

  • A single working adult must earn more than $13 per hour;
  • A single parent with 2 children must earn $26 per hour; and
  • A married couple, 2 working parents, 2 children must each earn $16.89 per hour (or a combined $33.78).

Note that the wages do not include safety net benefits, such as public insurance (Medicaid and hawk-i) and tax credits, including the Earned Income Tax Credit.

In Iowa, the state median wage is $16 per hour. If a single parent with two children or a married couple with two children earn the median wage, they will still fall short. Safety-net programs is are necessary to help families survive.

So, what is the best solution to combat childhood poverty? This question could lead to a number of suggested solutions, but let’s focus on the concept of giving families a child allowance.

A report released by the Century Foundation looked at providing a child allowance in the form of a lump sum to help families combat poverty. Other developed countries, including Australia, Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, provide a similar benefit to families. The research presents a number of scenarios, each ultimately leading to the same conclusion: child poverty would decrease with a child allowance.

When it comes to our aging population, we have seen a drastic decrease in poverty since the introduction to the War on Poverty. This can be directly correlated to the implementation of Social Security Income, providing a financial allowance to the aging population. Having witnessed the positive outcome of this program for our vulnerable seniors, let’s look at ways to replicate it for our most vulnerable children.

Our presidential candidates should be addressing the needs of 1 in 5 children in our country. Check out the Digital Dialogue to learn more about how the candidates stand on poverty issues affecting our kids. Eradicating childhood poverty is in the best interest of our communities, our families, and our kids.


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