Poverty and the States


On an individual state basis, the biggest changes in a state’s poverty rate between the two measures in each direction are: a) California’s official poverty rate of 14.5% ranked it No. 16 but the state moved up to No. 1 at 20.4% (highest state poverty rate in the US) using the SPM ( a difference of +5.9%) and b) Mississippi’s poverty rate ranked it No. 1 at 20.8% using the official measure but No. 5 at 16.9% using the SPM (a difference of -3.9%). Overall, 18 states, including California showed a greater percentage of people in poverty using the SPM, 30 states, including Mississippi, showed a lower percentage of people in poverty and two states showed no change (North Dakota and Utah).

Obviously, the reason for the increase in California’s (and 17 other states) poverty rate using the SPM is because of the state’s high cost-of-living including sky-high housing costs (median home price of $519,100) and because of high taxes and energy costs. And the decrease in Mississippi’s SPM poverty rate (and 29 other states) is because of that state’s low cost-of-living, including low housing costs (median home price of $114,400).