Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

August 20, 2012

Report: The cost to live in Iowa depends on where you live

By Michael Schaffer - Managing editor
Daily Iowegian

CENTERVILLE — The first sentence of The Iowa Policy Project report, "The Cost of Living in Iowa; 2011 Edition," is, "Iowans pay differing amounts for the basic living essentials depending on where they live."

What follows is a 24 page report that focuses on non-senior Iowa households with a working adult and how living in one county as opposed to another could mean you pay more, or less, for housing, health insurance, child care, food prepared at home, clothing, transportation and other living expenses.

"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," The Iowa Policy project report states. "This report also details, for the first time, how many working Iowa families are falling below a minimum cost of living threshold. Statewide, almost 23 percent of Iowa households are earning incomes below what is needed to meet their basic needs."

The section entitled, "Trends in Basic Expenses for Iowans," states, "Since our last Cost of Living report, which was based on 2008 spending data, total expenses have risen between 5 and 9 percent, which translates into an additional $1,600 to $4,200 for basic needs per year, depending on family type."

The same section points out the cost of child care consumes 15 to 23 percent of the basic-needs budget. "In 2011, the average annual cost for full-time infant care in an Iowa child care center was $8,588."

Here's an interesting tidbit from the report: "Iowa ranks first in the nation in the percent of children under 6 years of age with all parents in the labor force, 75.6 percent."

What does the report have to say about Appanoose County?

A single person, age 21-64, will pay nothing for child care, $206 for clothing and household expenses, $254 for food, $211 for health care, $347 for rent and utilities and $646 for transportation for a monthly total of $1,664.

A single parent age 21-64 with one child, will pay $464 for child care, $289 for clothing and household expenses, $370 for food, $329 for health care, $534 for rent and utilities and $646 for transportation for a monthly total of $2,632.

A single parent age 21-64 with two children, will pay $759 for child care, $369 for clothing and household expenses, $554 for food, $427 for health care, $674 for rent and utilities and $646 for transportation for a monthly total of $3,429.

A married couple, age 21-64, with one child and one parent works will pay nothing for child care, $369 for clothing and household expenses, $576 for food, $505 for health care, $534 for rent and utilities and $646 for transportation for a monthly total of $2,630.

A married couple, age 21-64, with one child and both parents work will pay $464 for child care, $369 for clothing and household expenses, $576 for food, $505 for health care, $534 for rent and utilities and $968 for transportation for a monthly total of $3,416.

A married couple, age 21-64, with two children and one parent works will pay nothing for child care, $398 for clothing and household expenses, $739 for food, $574 for health care, $674 for rent and utilities and $646 for transportation for a monthly total of $3,031.

A married couple, age 21-64, with two children and both parents work will pay $759 for child care, $398 for clothing and household expenses, $739 for food, $574 for health care, $674 for rent and utilities and $968 for transportation for a monthly total of $4,113.

As a footnote, the one child designation is for the age of 2-3 and for the two child designation is for a child age 2-3 and a child age 6-10.

The news release issued along with the report recommends an expansion of existing work supports in Iowa to close "a gap between low Iowa wages and what is necessary to support a basic, frugal family budget.

“The need for improvement is particularly acute for the three-fourths of single-parent families who work but are not paid enough to get by,” said Lily French, research associate for the nonpartisan Iowa Policy Project. “It is clear that work supports, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, state child care assistance and public health insurance, are critical to many Iowa working families and could help more if they were expanded. Instead, improvements have been rejected or even the existing supports threatened."

A copy of this report can be found at www.iowapolicyproject.org.