Polk County Health Department


Content updated on 7/11/17

Individuals and families need sufficient resources to meet their basic needs. This includes food, shelter and access to medical services. Generally, individuals living at or below the poverty level are dependent on government services and support (food stamps, medical benefits and other income supports) or equivalent support from family and community to meet essential needs. The most common measure of poverty is the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

In 2015, it was estimated that 55,227 or 12% of residents in Polk County were living below the poverty line. (Source: US Census Bureau ACS 1-Year Estimates 2015).


Children are more likely to be living in poverty than any other age group. This fact is a cause for concern as childhood is a critical time in human development.

Between 2011-2015, an estimate of 20,381 Polk County residents under 18 years old lived below poverty level. This number represented 18.0% of the total county 0-18 years old population. Inside this group, an estimate of 6,436 0-5 years old children lived below poverty (19.6% of total 0-5 children in the county). 

Population Below Poverty Level 2011-2015 (Source: US Census Bureau ACS 5-Year Estimates)

Total Population Population Below Poverty Percent Below Poverty
Under 5 years 32,779 6,436 19.6%
5 to 17 years 80,205 13,945 17.4%
18 to 34 years 107,597 17,737 16.5%
35 to 64 years 172,973 15,479 8.9%
65 years and over 49,909 3,546 7.1%


In addition, a comparison of individuals below poverty level based on race and ethnicity shows a great level of disparities between them. During 2011 – 2015, more African Americans proportionally lived below poverty level (37.8%) than Hispanics (26.6%), Asians (16.5%) and Whites (10.2%) in Polk County.


In Polk County, most ZIP codes with households living below the poverty line were highly concentrated in the Des Moines area, especially in zip codes 50032 (53.1%), 50314 (37.7%) and 50309 (29.3%).

Percent of Population Below 100% Poverty Level By ZIP code in Polk County 2011-2015(Source: US Census Bureau ZCTA American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.)


Percent of families living below poverty level in Polk County 2011-2015. (Source: US Census Bureau American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.)

Contact Us

Phone: (515)-286-3798
Fax: (515)-286-2033
Toll free: 866-209-1300

Address: 1907, Carpenter Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50314