Capital Clicks

Report finds 15% of Iowa households cannot afford basic needs

By: - April 27, 2022 4:31 pm

(Photo by Getty Images)

About 1 in 7 Iowa families did not earn enough in 2020, before today’s rising inflation, to meet a basic standard of living, according to a new report from progressive organization Common Good Iowa.

The report examines the cost of living for a variety of Iowa households, from single individuals to two-parent families with multiple children. Single-parent families struggled the most financially, according to the report: 45% of single-parent families did not earn enough to maintain a basic standard of living, including rent, utilities, food, child care, transportation and other necessities. 

“A single person now needs $13.84 an hour. A single parent with just one child would need $18.24 an hour. A married couple, two people working, two children, would need to each earn $15 an hour,” said Peter Fisher, a co-author of the report. “So I think it’s noteworthy that those basic bare bones wage levels are well above the minimum wage, at least twice the minimum wage in most cases.”

The data also showed racial disparities, Common Good Iowa reported. Natalie Veldhouse, another co-author, said Iowans of color were over-represented in lower-paid occupations that were less likely to offer health care or retirement benefits. 

“We know that Iowans of color have been excluded from economic prosperity that is generated by their contributions to our state’s economy due to long-standing discrimination in housing, education and unemployment,” Veldhouse said. 

Anne Discher, executive director of Common Good Iowa, promoted several policy solutions to the issue: raising the minimum wage, supplementing wages for child care and elderly care workers, and reducing costs for families. Discher also called for more public assistance for families.

“I think we saw, during the federal pandemic, the ways in which expanded eligibility really was an incredible safety net for families,” Discher said. “It really lessened hardship for folks who are working.”

The report uses data from mid-2020, so it does not reflect the lingering economic effects of the pandemic or rising inflation.

“I think the conclusion you have to draw is that the situation facing families in Iowa in 2022 is considerably more precarious than what is reflected in this report, because of the fact that inflation has started to take off and wages… have not,” Fisher said.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.