Land of Wellness: Northwood's Area Health Articles and Insights

Poor economy widespread in midwest poor

Iowa’s poverty rate climbed significantly in the second quarter from a year ago to reach 17.3 percent, the lowest since the tracking system began, while poverty rates in the midwest reached a peak in June at 16.4 percent.

Indeed, Iowa’s midwest poverty level is substantially higher than the national average, with the highest poverty rate in the country at $46,297 compared with $43,436 for the national average. Poverty reached a peak of 12.2 percent in 2016.

In the past year-and-a-half, both poverty and median household income have dropped significantly in the Iowa metro area, with the gap primarily driven by blacks and whites.

Health and social determinants may also have contributed, with the poverty rate relating to investment poverty potentially more important in some of the poorest parts of the state, said Helena Skipper, a sociologist and lead author on a 2018 study that tracked the economic and emotional evolution of rural areas of the Des Moines-area region.

While income generally fell in the southern state, the poor were more likely to struggle due to lower healthcare funding for patients, food insecurity and unemployment.

Life expectancy also dipped further in the past year-and-a-half. While life expectancy improved due to increased life expectancy, it levelled off in Iowa for the first time since the late 1970s.

Terri Sonnenfeld, a sociology professor at West Virginia University who was not involved in the study, chalked up the decline in life expectancy.

“We live in an era that tends not to miss opportunities for personal, emotional connections with our families,” Sonnenfeld said. “We lose the social connections that a good week of job training is like.”

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