The Cost of Living in Iowa — 2014 Edition
When Iowa Wages Fall Short, How Do Policy Choices Fill the Gap?

By Peter Fisher and Lily French



What does it take to get by these days? This latest edition of The Cost of Living in Iowa answers this question, and connects the answer to public policy choices that are in the hands of state and federal lawmakers. We present this report in three installments, outlined below.

Fig 2 graph: basic needs vs. median
Iowans pay differing amounts for the basic living essentials depending on where they live. A family living in Linn County and a family living in Clay County will face different housing costs, commuting times and health insurance premiums; child care costs will differ as well. Part 1 of this report details how much families throughout the state must earn in order to meet their basic needs and underscores the importance of public work support programs for many Iowans, who despite their work efforts, are not able to pay for the most basic living expenses.

Below, see how costs compare for families in your county and neighboring counties; click on any county for the data.

map Union Shelby Woodbury Ringgold Van Buren Wapello Scott Sioux Sac Tama Webster Warren Washington Wayne Wright Worth Winnebago Winneshiek Muscatine Mahaska Poweshiek Jasper Marion Monroe Lucas Page Montgomery Pottawattamie Mills Monona Marshall Story Humboldt Pocahontas Palo Alto O'Brien Plymouth Mitchell Hamilton Hardin Grundy Guthrie Franklin Madison Keokuk Louisa Iowa Lee Henry Fremont Ida Jones Linn Howard Kossuth Hancock Johnson Jackson Harrison Greene Jefferson Decatur Davis Emmet Floyd Delaware Dubuque Fayette Dallas Dickinson Des Moines Butler Buena Vista Boone Bremer Clayton Chickasaw Cerro Gordo Cass Crawford Calhoun Clay Cherokee Clarke Carroll Buchanan Black Hawk Benton Clinton Cedar Audubon appanoose Adair Adams Osceola Allamakee Lyon Taylor Polk
Part 1: Basic Family Budgets
Part 1 of this report details how much working families must earn in order to meet their basic needs and underscores the importance of public work support programs for many Iowans, who despite their work efforts, are not able to pay for the most basic living expenses.
View full report or download 22-page PDF
News release
County data (map, printable tables)
County and regional data (spreadsheet)

Part 2: Many Iowa Families Struggle to Meet Basic Needs
Part 2 shows that over half the jobs in Iowa pay less than what is needed by many families to achieve basic self-sufficiency. How many Iowa families earn below the family supporting income levels reported here? How many families, in other words, must rely on work supports to get them closer to the basic needs budget level?
View full report or download 6-page PDF
News release

Part 3, yet to come, will examine what are known as the “cliff effects” that occur when a family makes just enough to lose eligibility for various work support programs — creating an "income cliff" that costs far more than they gain from a meager pay increase. A preliminary version of this part of the analysis, illustrating "cliff effects" in the Child Care Assistance program, was released in December and is available on the IPP website here: http://www.iowafiscal.org/like-falling-off-a-cliff/.