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States with the most people below the poverty line

  • States with the most people below the poverty line

    Poverty is one of America’s most vexing and poignant issues—what causes it, why does it persist, how can we end it, what defines it, and just how many people are poor? Stacker ranked all states and Washington D.C. based on the percentage of their populations below the federal poverty level (FPL) threshold. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2018 American Community five-year estimates.

    The U.S. FPL is a metric first used in the 1960s that is based on the cost of a minimal food budget multiplied by three on the assumption that food comprises a third of a household’s expenses. The FPL is used as a threshold for determining an individual or families' eligibility for assistance programs from SNAP benefits to Medicaid. Various social services have different caps for eligibility from 100% of the FPL or higher.

    Some say 200% of the federal poverty level is a more realistic figure for covering the cost of basic needs in the United States. None of the measures captures what’s known as episodic poverty, which affects workers with temporary jobs or those in the informal or gig economies.

    Poverty rates in America also reveal a disturbing racial gap, with Black Americans some 2.5 times more likely to be poor than white Americans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The poverty rate hovers at about a third of Black residents in Iowa, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Research generally points to causes like poor education systems, workplace discrimination, and high incarceration rates. The coronavirus has reached into that gap, with correlations between poverty and COVID-19 hitting low-income Black communities disproportionately hard. Experts say there is more likelihood of underlying medical conditions that make Black people vulnerable, such as diabetes and heart disease. Those communities tend to have less access to good health care and have higher populations of essential workers who cannot stay home and are forced to stay on the job and risk getting infected.

    Keep reading to see which states have the most people below the poverty line.

    You may also like: How COVID-19 is exposing inequality in America

    • #51. New Hampshire

      - Population below the poverty line: 102,352 (7.9% of state population)
      --- Children ages 0-17 in poverty: 26,189 (10.2% of all children)
      - Race/ethnicity poverty demographics:
      --- Asian American: 3,476 (10.1% of Asian Americans in New Hampshire)
      --- Black Americans: 3,626 (19.8% of Black Americans in New Hampshire)
      --- Hispanics/Latinos: 8,180 (17.8% of Hispanics/Latinos in New Hampshire)
      --- Native Americans/Alaskans: 258 (13.1% of Native Americans/Alaskans in New Hampshire)
      --- White Americans: 84,797 (7.2% of all White Americans in New Hampshire)

      Having the lowest state poverty rate masks the situation for many residents who are weighed down by New Hampshire's high housing costs and struggle to pay for necessities, according to local fiscal experts. Job growth in the state has been concentrated in low-paying sectors of health care, accommodation, and food services.

    • #50. Maryland

      - Population below the poverty line: 553,496 (9.4% of state population)
      --- Children ages 0-17 in poverty: 164,213 (12.4% of all children)
      - Race/ethnicity poverty demographics:
      --- Asian American: 26,703 (7.2% of Asian Americans in Maryland)
      --- Black Americans: 236,497 (13.6% of Black Americans in Maryland)
      --- Hispanics/Latinos: 78,042 (13.5% of Hispanics/Latinos in Maryland)
      --- Native Americans/Alaskans: 2,052 (13.6% of Native Americans/Alaskans in Maryland)
      --- White Americans: 193,644 (6.4% of all White Americans in Maryland)

      Despite recording a low federal poverty rate, a quarter of Maryland families live below a basic survival threshold of $61,224 for a two-child family, a 2017 study by United Way found. That reflected more than a half million households in low-paying jobs like janitors and security guards. Almost half of Baltimore’s households fall below the survival line, the report said.

    • #49. Hawaii

      - Population below the poverty line: 137,516 (9.9% of state population)
      --- Children ages 0-17 in poverty: 37,559 (12.5% of all children)
      - Race/ethnicity poverty demographics:
      --- Asian American: 33,564 (6.4% of Asian Americans in Hawaii)
      --- Black Americans: 2,621 (11.2% of Black Americans in Hawaii)
      --- Hispanics/Latinos: 19,934 (14% of Hispanics/Latinos in Hawaii)
      --- Native Americans/Alaskans: 690 (24.2% of Native Americans/Alaskans in Hawaii)
      --- White Americans: 27,670 (9.2% of all White Americans in Hawaii)

      Hawaii’s federal poverty rate fails to reflect the state’s cost of living, which is the highest in the nation. When expenses like utilities, grocers, child care, and transportation are factored in, Hawaii has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, data shows.

    • #48. Connecticut

      - Population below the poverty line: 348,449 (10% of state population)
      --- Children ages 0-17 in poverty: 100,097 (13.5% of all children)
      - Race/ethnicity poverty demographics:
      --- Asian American: 12,006 (7.8% of Asian Americans in Connecticut)
      --- Black Americans: 66,722 (18.5% of Black Americans in Connecticut)
      --- Hispanics/Latinos: 124,483 (22.7% of Hispanics/Latinos in Connecticut)
      --- Native Americans/Alaskans: 1,570 (17% of Native Americans/Alaskans in Connecticut)
      --- White Americans: 139,467 (5.9% of all White Americans in Connecticut)

      Data has shown that while Connecticut’s poverty rate was low, it was on the rise, particularly among children: 1 in 5 Black children lives in areas of concentrated poverty, where more than a third of households fall below the federal poverty line, compared with 1 in 100 white children. In 2019, the state raised its minimum hourly wage to $11 from $10.10 in an effort to address its poverty rate.

    • #47. Minnesota

      - Population below the poverty line: 547,442 (10.1% of state population)
      --- Children ages 0-17 in poverty: 163,937 (12.9% of all children)
      - Race/ethnicity poverty demographics:
      --- Asian American: 37,275 (14.5% of Asian Americans in Minnesota)
      --- Black Americans: 100,381 (30.4% of Black Americans in Minnesota)
      --- Hispanics/Latinos: 56,976 (20% of Hispanics/Latinos in Minnesota)
      --- Native Americans/Alaskans: 17,260 (31.3% of Native Americans/Alaskans in Minnesota)
      --- White Americans: 314,491 (7.2% of all White Americans in Minnesota)

      Minnesota legislators launched a concerted effort a decade ago to end poverty with an increased minimum wage, expanded child care, affordable housing, accessible transportation, restrictions on predatory lending, and better childhood education, and the rate has dropped from 11.6% in 2010. Glaring discrepancies remain, such as more than a quarter of the state’s Black and Native American residents living in poverty.

       

    • #46. Utah

      - Population below the poverty line: 309,904 (10.3% of state population)
      --- Children ages 0-17 in poverty: 104,533 (11.5% of all children)
      - Race/ethnicity poverty demographics:
      --- Asian American: 9,770 (14.3% of Asian Americans in Utah)
      --- Black Americans: 8,561 (24.9% of Black Americans in Utah)
      --- Hispanics/Latinos: 77,185 (18.6% of Hispanics/Latinos in Utah)
      --- Native Americans/Alaskans: 9,391 (29.4% of Native Americans/Alaskans in Utah)
      --- White Americans: 195,169 (8.3% of all White Americans in Utah)

      Unemployment has been low in Utah, and its economy has thrived, helping to keep its poverty level down. The state has a high number of married couples with children and a small number of single parent households, which are more likely to live below poverty levels.

    • #45. New Jersey

      - Population below the poverty line: 904,132 (10.4% of state population)
      --- Children ages 0-17 in poverty: 288,675 (14.8% of all children)
      - Race/ethnicity poverty demographics:
      --- Asian American: 56,804 (6.9% of Asian Americans in New Jersey)
      --- Black Americans: 209,499 (18.2% of Black Americans in New Jersey)
      --- Hispanics/Latinos: 330,818 (19% of Hispanics/Latinos in New Jersey)
      --- Native Americans/Alaskans: 3,524 (19.3% of Native Americans/Alaskans in New Jersey)
      --- White Americans: 295,522 (6.1% of all White Americans in New Jersey)

      While New Jersey’s poverty by federal standards is lower than the national average, some experts say a more accurate measure in a state with such a high cost of living uses $50,200 as the poverty line for a family of four. By that measure, more than 1 in 5 New Jersey residents, or 1.9 million people, actually live in poverty.

    • #44. Massachusetts

      - Population below the poverty line: 710,305 (10.8% of state population)
      --- Children ages 0-17 in poverty: 188,810 (13.9% of all children)
      - Race/ethnicity poverty demographics:
      --- Asian American: 57,813 (13.8% of Asian Americans in Massachusetts)
      --- Black Americans: 96,509 (19.7% of Black Americans in Massachusetts)
      --- Hispanics/Latinos: 203,145 (26.6% of Hispanics/Latinos in Massachusetts)
      --- Native Americans/Alaskans: 3,101 (22.2% of Native Americans/Alaskans in Massachusetts)
      --- White Americans: 338,177 (7.1% of all White Americans in Massachusetts)

      One reason for Massachusetts’ relatively low poverty rate is education. More than 4 in 10 residents have at least a bachelor’s degree, making them qualified for a wide range of jobs and higher salaries.

    • #43. Alaska

      - Population below the poverty line: 77,865 (10.8% of state population)
      --- Children ages 0-17 in poverty: 27,615 (15.2% of all children)
      - Race/ethnicity poverty demographics:
      --- Asian American: 5,831 (12.7% of Asian Americans in Alaska)
      --- Black Americans: 3,916 (17.3% of Black Americans in Alaska)
      --- Hispanics/Latinos: 5,447 (11.1% of Hispanics/Latinos in Alaska)
      --- Native Americans/Alaskans: 24,502 (23.8% of Native Americans/Alaskans in Alaska)
      --- White Americans: 30,795 (7% of all White Americans in Alaska)

      Alaska’s federal poverty level is among the 10 lowest in the country, but its cost of living is among the highest, leaving many families struggling to make ends meet. A monthly energy bill can cost $500 in Fairbanks, while statewide, energy bills are typically more than half that amount. The cost of an average home in Juneau is more than a half million dollars.

       

    • #42. Virginia

      - Population below the poverty line: 893,580 (10.9% of state population)
      --- Children ages 0-17 in poverty: 266,487 (14.5% of all children)
      - Race/ethnicity poverty demographics:
      --- Asian American: 38,738 (7.4% of Asian Americans in Virginia)
      --- Black Americans: 286,807 (18.6% of Black Americans in Virginia)
      --- Hispanics/Latinos: 110,252 (14.7% of Hispanics/Latinos in Virginia)
      --- Native Americans/Alaskans: 2,993 (13.7% of Native Americans/Alaskans in Virginia)
      --- White Americans: 426,968 (8.4% of all White Americans in Virginia)

      Virginia’s poverty rate has been more or less steady since 2010, hovering between 10% and 11%. But the gap between rich and poor has widened. Loudoun County, outside Washington D.C., had the nation’s highest household income, while the poverty rate in Montgomery County in the Blue Ridge Mountains is nearly three times the state average and the ninth-highest poverty rate among U.S. counties.