A new study released this morning concludes 37% of Iowa households could not afford to pay monthly bills that cover the basic necessities of life in 2016. The report identified 12% of Iowans living below the poverty line and another 25 percent of working Iowans living paycheck-to-paycheck.
Shane Orr, executive director of United Way of Muscatine, is chairman of the United Ways of Iowa board of directors, the group that commissioned the report.
“Sadly, there is no single solution to fix the challenges that so many in Iowa face,” Orr said during a conference call with reporters. “The challenges are complex and interwoven. However, armed with the information from this report, everyone can make more informed decisions.”
Iowans who are identified as “income constrained” live in both urban and rural Iowa. More than half the residents of southern Iowa’s Decatur County are unable to afford basic necessities according to Stephanie Hoopes, the former Rutgers University professor who did the research.
“This basic household budget that we measure is the bare minimum of housing, child care, food, transportation, health care and the bare minimum cell phone plan because there are the things you need to live and work in the modern economy in Iowa,” Hoopes said.
Those costs increased 26% for a single adult and 41% for a family of four.
“That is much faster than the rate of inflation, which during that period was nine percent,” Hoopes said.
In 2010, about 18% of Iowa households with a working adult were living paycheck to paycheck. The updated report indicates that increased to 25% by 2016.
“We’re actually hearing some really good economic indicators right now: low unemployment, increased productivity, the stock market’s booming,” Hoopes said, “…and yet there’s something else going on.”
Hoopes said working Iowans who are employed, but have few assets and little to no savings are “one emergency away from falling into poverty.”