5 Facts You Should Know About Equity in Iowa

August 16, 2021 | United Way Team

Learn about what’s keeping some community members from success, and register for the 21-Day Equity Challenge to dive deeper into these issues.

Although the term “equity” can sometimes seem like bewildering jargon, it actually involves many different issues that touch your life directly — and the daily lives of millions of other Iowans. Blog B Photo

Equity is deeply personal for Iowans in marginalized communities — people of color, LGBTQ individuals, refugees and immigrants, people with disabilities, low-income households, and many others. 

Iowans have long believed that everyone living here should have a chance at a thriving life. But systemic barriers, unconscious bias, and discrimination get in the way of that admirable goal, as the statistics below illustrate.

1. White Iowans own their homes at nearly three times the rate of Black Iowans.

According to Iowa Public Radio, this homeownership gap is one of the largest in the country, and it’s even bigger than it was 50 years ago. Much of this divide can be attributed to historic housing practices. Redlining — common in Iowa communities and across the U.S. — denied home loans and other services to neighborhoods with a significant number of Black residents.

2. More than 70% of Latinx youth in Iowa report being called names or slurs at school that they find offensive.

In addition, a 2018 study by Al Exito — the only statewide nonprofit focused on Latinx youth — found that 40% of Latinx students surveyed felt stressed about the potential deportation of themselves, a family member, or a caregiver almost every day. Nearly 60% regularly experienced “fear, anger, or uncertainty due to anti-immigration sentiment.” These experiences resulted in suicidal thoughts, anxiety and depression, trouble focusing at school, insomnia, and changes in eating habits. 

3. More than 60% of Iowa adults report experiencing at least one of 10 categories of child abuse, neglect, and household stressors growing up.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) include abuse, neglect, violence, substance abuse, and mental health issues in the home. This kind of childhood trauma can reduce life expectancy by up to 20 years and lead to health issues like depression, asthma, heart disease, and stroke. Learn more in the 2020 Iowa ACES Report by Iowa ACEs 360.

4. 8.2 of every 1,000 Iowa children are in foster care.

This number is significantly higher than the national average of 5.5. As of 2017, 14,000 Iowa kids were in foster care, with 36% requiring mental health medication. Learn more about foster care issues at Families Helping Families of Iowa.

5. Black Iowans are imprisoned at a rate 11 times that of white Iowans. 

According to Iowa Public Radio, this stark disparity is more extreme than any other state in the country. Experts attribute the inequity to patterns of discrimination going back over a century. Studies have shown that differences in charging and sentencing are strongly associated with the race of the defendant. Implicit bias from judges, law enforcement officials, and prosecutors also contributes to the issue. 

The 21-Day Equity Challenge — jointly created by United Ways across Iowa — will cover many important topics, including housing disparities and discrimination, mental health, foster youth, the justice system, and implicit bias. 

Join thousands of Iowans in an self-guided online journey to learn more about the barriers affecting people in our state and what small steps you can take to make a difference.