Community Income Goal: To increase the percentage of central Iowans who are financially self-sufficient to 75% by 2020. 

2019 Income Chart

U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, most recent 5-year estimates for Polk, Dallas, and Warren Counties (2013-2017)

One out of every three families in central Iowa can barely cover basic daily expenses. And low wages force many families to go without—or to go into debt. In today's economy, families need enough income to cover rising costs of food, housing, health care, transportation, childcare and clothing—or face painful financial choices.

One of the clearest paths to economic self-sufficiency is education and training. Job training and readiness programs remain critical to advancing low-wage, low-skilled workers into self-sustaining jobs (UW Metrics report, p. 24). United Way and its community partners work to strengthen central Iowans' education and skills to prepare them for the better-paying jobs in the local economy.


Results Scorecard is a tool used to measure progress toward goals and strategies. Click the scorecard icons to see specific measures.

Since 2015, nearly 25,000 more central Iowans are financially self-sufficient.

The percentage of central Iowans who were financially self-sufficient increased to 67% in 2017, up 1.1% from the previous year and up 1.8% since 2015, according to the latest U.S. Census data released this December.

“Our efforts as a community are working,” said Elisabeth Buck, president of United Way of Central Iowa. “After a six-year downturn, the number of families who are thriving in Polk, Warren, and Dallas Counties is increasing, and that especially means more children are having their basic needs met and are having greater opportunities for healthy development.”

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55% of all jobs in central Iowa require education or training after high school up to an associate degree.
Only 32% of the workforce has the right skills for these jobs. 

Iowa Workforce Development




of people convicted of a crime are not employed one year after release from prison.

National Institute of Justice


Largest average monthly costs for an Iowa family of four (2 adults, 1 infant, 1 preschooler):
- $1,035 child care
- $800 health care
- $659 housing

ALICE Report

is the median household income for all of Polk County.


is the median household income for African-Americans in Polk County.

One Economy




more central Iowans were financially self-sufficient in 2017 than two years before.

U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey





individuals are receiving training or education for health care jobs, 100 more than projected, through United Way’s Central Iowa HealthWorks. Nearly 70% of individuals served represent minority populations. 


income increase was achieved within 18 months by 614 adults who earned their high school equivalency diplomas through United Way’s Bridges to Success initiative. 

Iowa Workforce Development





volunteers provided free tax preparation to 4,703 central Iowans through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in 2018. This program helps low-income central Iowans receive the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which can help lift people out of poverty.


In 2018, the Iowa Legislature repealed a law that revoked the driver’s licenses of people with non-driving drug offenses. United Way’s OpportUNITY initiative successfully advocated to remove this barrier for citizens returning from prison so they can find employment and housing. 

Who is ALICE?

With the cost of living higher than what most wages pay, ALICE families – an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – work hard and earn above the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), but not enough to afford a basic household budget of housing, child care, food, transportation, and health care. ALICE households live in every county in Iowa – urban, suburban, and rural – and they include women and men, young and old, of all races and ethnicities.

The study and report reveal key statistics around Iowans in need, including detailed analysis by county. Click the image of the report to access the Executive Summary or the full report.


Example Income Programs

Bridges to Success-1.png

Bridges to Success is helping 10,000 central Iowans achieve a high school equivalency diploma (HSED) by the end of 2020. The program's innovative approaches, including supportive coaches who help students overcome barriers and free test-prep classes, lead individuals onto a sustainable career pathway.

Learn More About BRIDGES to SUCCESS

Opportunuty-new-color-no taglineOpportUNITY unites central Iowans to fight poverty together. We are tackling our community's toughest challenges to eliminate barriers and ensure all central Iowans have a path to financial stability. OpportUNITY has released an updated plan to reduce poverty in Polk, Dallas, and Warren Counties—with action steps in eight focus areas to implement over the next 18 months.

Learn More About OpportUNITY

Skills2Compete_Logo.pngSkills2Compete is a coalition serving as a voice for adult education and workforce advocacy that helps increase financial stability for working families to grow Iowa’s economy.

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Central Iowa Works aims to close the skills gap and meet the needs of employers by helping them to recruit and hire qualified workers for jobs in central Iowa. They also address the needs of job seekers by helping them get trained and hired for jobs with pathways for growth.

Learn More About Central Iowa Works