For five weeks in September and October 2013 IowaWatch and partner newspapers reported on how and why a gap in home ownership, jobs and pay, education and crime exist among white, black and Latino Iowans.

The stories in this series show you census numbers that reveal the gaps, explore how and why the gaps exist and tell you ways Iowans are trying to close those gaps. In addition to the stories, you have access to data that show disparity in the key areas.

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  Credit: Jaime Vargas/IowaWatch

Blacks, Latinos Falling Behind When It Comes To Opportunities In Iowa

White Iowans have made strong gains in high school and college graduation rates, lowering poverty levels, median family income and home ownership since 1960. But black and Latino achievements in these areas have grown far more slowly, or in some cases declined, contributing to a widening opportunity gap among the races.

The reasons can be found in a blend of institutional racism, negative stereotypes of minorities in Iowa, limited support from the state, language barriers and immigrants’ lack of knowledge of U.S. culture, Iowans who deal with the disparity said in interviews. Those interviewed include African American and Latino residents and leaders, social workers, officials in government and law enforcement, and community leaders. Read here.

WestLibertyFoods_near tracksBlack and Latino Rising Poverty Rates, Dropping Median Pay Are Strongly Linked

The 2010 census showed 43 percent of black Iowans living in poverty – 7 percentage points from being half of the state’s black residents. The poverty rate for white Iowans, meanwhile, dropped from one in four in 1960 to one in 10 in 1970 through the 2010 census. Latino poverty has been somewhere in the middle since 1970, at 27 percent. But all things are relative – the Latino poverty rate in 1960 was 13 percent. Read here.

AFES_FortDodge_028Graduation Rates For Iowa Blacks, Latinos Not Keeping Up During The Past Half-Century

A gap between white Iowans earning college degrees – and high school degrees as well – and Latino and black Iowans earning them is not shrinking the past 50 years. Read here.

Hanson_2010West Liberty School Superintendent Explains Dual Language Program in Interview

Reporter Stephen Gruber-Miller interviewed West Liberty schools Superintendent Steve Hanson about that district’s dual language program. District officials say the program has helped improve the educational experience and outcomes in their schools. More than one-half of West Liberty’s residents are Latino. Read the edited interview transcript here.

DaveSelmon_HawkEye photoMoves In Iowa Are Aimed At Reducing The State’s Black Imprisonment Rate

A disproportionate involvement with the criminal justice system is tearing black families apart and preventing them from finding good jobs, social workers, minorities, government officials and community leaders said in interviews over the past four months for a special project on opportunity disparity in Iowa. Read here.

DISPARITYBlacks, Latinos Struggle To Raise Home Ownership Rates in Iowa

Three of every 10 black Iowans owned a house in 2010, that data showed. Three of  every six of the state’s Latinos owned one. Three of every four white Iowans owned a home in 2010. Read more.

MEET POLICE CHIEF CANDIDATESCommunity Leader: It’s All Linked

Virgil Gooding sees a link when it comes to the difficulties black Iowans have had obtaining home ownership, higher income, jobs, and high school and college degrees.

“It has to do with systemic problems in the various social or educational or criminal justice institutions,” said Gooding, a therapist at Keys to Awareness in Cedar Rapids and a member of the city’s African American Family Preservation and Resource Committee. Read more.

AboutSidebarCommentary: Iowa Needs Problem Solvers To Narrow Opportunity Gaps

By Lyle Muller, Executive Director-Editor, Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism

Database: Iowa’s Opportunity Gap

By Lauren Mills, IowaWatch digital analyst/reporter

This link takes you to the databases that show disparity in home ownership, jobs and pay, education and crime among Iowa’s white, black and Latino residents.

I-News analysis for this report was done by Burt Hubbard. Read the I-News special report on Colorado that produced the data IowaWatch used for this story:  Losing Ground: An I-News Special Project

I-News is the public service journalism arm of Rocky Mountain PBS. For more I-News stories, please go to
I-News and IowaWatch are members of the Investigative News Network, which has grown since the series was published to more than 90 nonprofit news organizations as of the end of October 2013.

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