Nearly one in four Iowa families lack an income necessary to maintain even a frugal budget, according to a report today from the Iowa Policy Project. Nearly three-fourths (74 percent) of single-parent families' incomes failed to meet basic needs, the report found.

By comparison, 23 percent of married couples with children under 18 had incomes below the basic-needs level, and 12 percent of married couples without children were below that level. The Iowa City-based research group defined a frugal budget that allowed for housing, utilities, food, child care, health care, transportation, clothing and other necessities, but nothing for education, skill training, gifts, entertainment, restaurant meals or savings, including retirement.

The report recommends expansion of several programs, including the Earned Income Tax Credit, state child-care assistance and public health insurance. State-sponsored housing assistance and improved wage and benefit standards in economic development programs also would help meeting living expenses. Click here for a full copy of the report.