Report: 17.5% of Iowa’s full-time workers can’t cover a basic-needs budget

DES MOINES — A new report finds one in six full-time Iowa workers struggles to pay for basic needs. The non-profit Common Good Iowa, which advocates for families and children, estimates 17.5% of all Iowa working households earn below what’s needed to cover a basic-needs budget.

Sean Finn, a policy analyst for the non-profit, says figures this year show more low-income Iowans are struggling compared to last year, even as the state sees strong wage growth.  Finn says, “Even though these families were making more each month, even though these wages, especially low wages were increasing, inflation just outpaced it during this time.”

Finn says one reason is the historical policies that contributed to systemic racism like “red-lining,” where financial services are withheld from neighborhoods that have significant numbers of racial and ethnic minorities. Finn says red-lining has lasting effects.  “Even though it’s technically illegal at this point,” Finn says, “there’s good evidence that red-lining unofficially goes on to this day, including in the state of Iowa.”

The ninth annual report estimates one-third of full-time Black and Latino workers make below what is needed to support their families’ basic needs. That’s almost double the statewide average.