September 17, 2014

New report shows poverty in Iowa’s “regional centers”

new report shows about 20 percent of Iowa’s young children live in poverty — and the largest pockets of poverty are not limited to Iowa’s large urban areas.

“There’s actually a group of counties that are home to what we called ‘regional centers’ — basically towns where the population is between 10,000 and 50,000 — where there’s actually a high degree of risk,” says Anne Discher of the Iowa Child & Family Policy Center, one of the groups that collaborated on the report.

Another risk factor cited in the report relates to the education level of a child’s mother. One-quarter of young kids in Iowa have a mother who either hasn’t finished high school or has only acquired a high school diploma.

“One of the main goals of this report was to identify groups of kids who were at high risk of having struggles later on in life and there’s a good degree of research that shows that parental education, particularly maternal education, is a fairly significant indicators of risk,” Discher says, “so that statistic really is one of the key findings of this report.”

Discher says another “compelling” static shows there’s been a large increase in the number of babies in Iowa who are born to single, unmarried women.

“It adds family stress when there’s only one income, one adult to manage the chaos of a home with young children,” Discher says.

In 2010, more than 90 percent of brand new mothers under the age of 20 were single. First-time mothers in Iowa who were over the age of 20 were far less likely to be unmarried if they had a college degree. Only nine percent of first-time mothers over the age of 20 who had a college diploma were unmarried.