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We Have Work to Do, And We Can Do it Together!

We know that we have many reasons to be proud of central Iowa! We know that there is work to be done to make this a community where all of our neighbors can live without want and need. We have work to be done to achieve this goal! We CAN do this together through collective impact! Collective impact is the commitment of a group of important community members from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem. Thank you for joining this journey!

The number of people living in poverty in central Iowa needs to decrease!

2013 indicates that approximately 195,000 central Iowans (35.3% of the total population of Polk, Dallas, and Warren counties) do not earn enough to be self-sufficient and 64,235 live below 100% of poverty.  For a family of 2, living below 100% of poverty means you earn less than $15,730 annually.  In order to be self-sufficient, a family of 2 needs to earn $39,325 annually. Of those living below 100% of poverty, 31,357 are children under 18 years old. The overall goal of OpportUNITY is to increase the percentage of people who are financially self-sufficient from 64.7% in 2013 to 75% in 2020.


What do we know about poverty in central Iowa?

Meet Rachel: Rachel is a young single mother who started working full-time to support her family.

“My food stamps declined from $400-$600 per month to $120 per month, after I began working full-time, but I was not making a living wage. Additionally, I am no longer receiving Family Investment Program (FIP Benefits), because I timed-out and have completed the hardship extension. This affects my life, because I have to spend more money on necessities than I did, even though my total income has not risen enough to sustain my family.”

Meet Keisha: Keisha was homeless, but she has now found safe, affordable housing for her family of 5.

“My parents taught me that ‘you can't help someone who doesn't want to help themselves.’ According to the government and their aid, my parents were wrong. I do nothing, they provide everything. I do something, they provide nothing, despite the fact that "something" just doesn't cover everything.” 

Meet Joe: “I work at a fast food restaurant while I am trying to support my family, and I am going to classes to get my high school diploma.  My salary of $10.00 per hour does not cover our needs. I will have to find a second job, but then I will probably have to quit school.”

The most recent poverty data informs us that many of our central Iowa neighbors are not living the kind of quality of life we all seek! Individuals and families in this circumstance are often hungry, homeless, living in poor conditions or unsafe housing, not educated or working, and often hopeless. The county level poverty data released on October 23, 2014 informs us that there is significant work still to be done to help central Iowans move to sustainable self-sufficiency. The following data points tell the story. These data points refer to 100% of poverty and below.

  • The percent of central Iowans who are financially self-sufficient rose slightly for the first time in 5 years.
  • Since 2010, the percentage of central Iowans living below the 100% federal poverty level has increased from 9.9 percent to 11.6 %. The state percentage for 2013 is 12.8 %.
  • With almost 25% of people who have less than a high school diploma living below 100% of poverty in central Iowa, individuals without a high school diploma or equivalency may only be eligible for low-wage jobs. Some minimum-wage jobs require at least an equivalency diploma.
  • More females (12.5 %) are living in poverty than males (10.7 %).
  • In Polk County, 14.3 % of families in poverty are led by single fathers; 55.8 % are led by single mothers.
  • In Polk County, the percentages of African Americans (39.4 %), Hispanics (28.4 %), and people of two or more races (29.9 %) living in poverty indicate disproportionate numbers when compared with the white population (10.2 %).


Why should we strive to end poverty in central Iowa?

There are many reasons why a community would want to end poverty. The future of a community depends on the well-being and success of children, adults and families. Following are some reasons why ending poverty is critical in central Iowa:

For our children…

  • Poor children from birth to age five are twice as likely as affluent children to be obese (Currie 2005).
  • By age four, research shows that low-income children would have heard 30 million fewer words than their affluent peers.
  • Low-income children have less access to developmentally appropriate, high quality early care and learning opportunities.
  • Kids eligible for free and reduced price lunch are 30% more likely to be chronically absent in fourth grade and 40% more likely to be absent in eighth grade.  This impacts their academic performance.
  • Nationally, only 15% of children who receive free or reduced price meals during the school year have access to those meals during the summer.

For adults and families…

  • In addition to reducing poverty for the family, an increase in the number of adults with high school equivalency diplomas, industry-recognized credentials, and the benefit of soft skill training can increase the skill of the workforce to meet the needs of the community’s employers.
  • The state’s skills gap persist with only 33% of working Iowans having the skills and credentials needed to work in the middle skill jobs that make up 56% of Iowa’s jobs. (Iowa Skills2Compete Coalition, 2015).
  • Apart from lost earnings, poverty, and productivity, high school dropouts are more likely than those who graduate to be arrested or have a child while still a teenager both of which incur additional financial and social costs (Fiester 2010).
  • Iowa’s average earnings for private sector workers are 23% below the national average (Future Ready Iowa).
  • Iowa has been named one of the “Worst Cities for Black Americans” focusing on the gap in quality of life compared to whites (24/7 Wall St.).

10 Key Central Iowa Poverty Statistics 100% or below

  1. There are 830 homeless people living in central Iowa(2015 point in time homeless report)
  2. Food insecurity rate (2013) - 54,080 individuals (12.6%)
  3. Financial insecurity rate (2013) - 35.3% (below 250% poverty threshold)
  4. 38,489 children (39.5 %) on free or reduced lunch in Polk, Dallas, and Warren school districts (2015)
  5. 22,959 Des Moines Public Schools students (73.2%) are on free or reduced price lunch
  6. 1,335 children (19%) read below 3rd grade level (2015)
  7. 1,435 children (21.9%) reading below 8th grade level (2014 data)
  8. 33,000 central Iowans (6%) do not have a high school diploma; 20.3% of these people live below 100% of poverty
  9. 16.1% of children age 0-17 live below the poverty level in Iowa (U.S. Census)
  10. 23,236 of the total central Iowa labor force (7.5%) are below poverty; 2,510 of this labor force (21%) live in the Urban Core.