10 States Where Poverty Is Worse Than You Think

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Reposted from 24/7 Wall Street:

In 1995, a National Academy of Sciences panel made recommendations for how an alternative poverty measure could be developed. Since then, the Census Bureau has worked in partnership with the Bureau of Labor Statistics to further these recommendations. The result was the supplemental poverty measure, which produces state level poverty rates that differ considerably from the official poverty measures. Compared to Mississippi’s official poverty rate of 20.7% between 2011 and 2013, the supplemental poverty rate was more than five percentage points lower during that time. In California, the supplemental poverty rate was 7.4 percentage points higher and, at 23.4%, the highest in the nation. Based on recently released data from the Census Bureau, these are the states where poverty is worse than you think.

Kathleen Short, economist at the Census Bureau and author of its report on the supplemental poverty measure, explained, “The important feature of that measure is that it includes a lot of the non-cash benefits that we have in the United States to help families with low incomes.” Short added that this is useful for policymakers because it allows them “to get a better idea of how effective our safety net is for helping people.” One of the primary differences between the supplemental poverty measure and the official one is housing costs. The supplemental measure is adjusted to reflect local housing costs, whereas the official poverty measure is not. According to Short, this is one of the major factors that can push up poverty rates in many states under the supplemental measure.

In fact, of the 10 states with the highest increases in poverty under the supplemental poverty measure, eight also had among the 10 highest costs of living. Further, in seven of these states, the relative cost of renting an apartment was also among the 10 highest nationally. The two states with the largest increases in poverty under the supplemental measure — California and Hawaii — were also the top two states in terms of the cost of renting a home.

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Census Data: Poverty 2009-2012

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You can explore who fell into poverty and who escaped poverty from 2009 to 2012, with “poverty entries” & “exits” data, based on a sample of 68,000 addresses. It includes redesigned questions for income and health insurance coverage, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

2013 Findings:

  • In 2013, the official poverty rate was 14.5 percent, down from 15.0 percent in 2012. This was the first decrease in the poverty rate since 2006.
  • In 2013, there were 45.3 million people in poverty. For the third consecutive year, the number of people in poverty at the national level was not statistically different from the previous year’s estimate.
  • The 2013 poverty rate was 2.0 percentage points higher than in 2007, the year before the most recent recession.
  • The poverty rate for children under 18 fell from 21.8 percent in 2012 to 19.9 percent in 2013.
  • The poverty rate for people aged 18 to 64 was 13.6 percent, while the rate for people aged 65 and older was 9.5 percent. Neither of these poverty rates were statistically different from their 2012 estimates.
  • Both the poverty rate and the number in poverty decreased for Hispanics in 2013.
  • Despite the decline in the national poverty rate, the 2013 regional poverty rates were not statistically different from the 2012 rates.

Read more here.