California Is America's Poorest State

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Thu, Nov 7, 2013 at 1:45 PM

California is becoming such a surreal place. Our billionaire population is booming. L.A. county has the most expensive homes in America. You can barely touch real estate these days without an all-cash offer.

See also: Priciest Homes in U.S. Are Right Here in L.A. County.

And yet the U.S. Census Bureau has determined, under its "supplemental poverty measure," that California is the poorest state in America. For the second year in a row:

The latest Census figures say 23.8 percent of us are living in poverty, or that almost one in four Californians is poor. Unofficially.

Without the adjustments made under the supplemental poverty measure, our rate would be 16.5 percent. And that's the official number.

The federal government hasn't adopted the supplemental way of doing things ... yet. This week's report takes into account a little thing we like to call reality.

In other words, this alternative way of crunching the numbers takes into account the cost of living, including our astronomical rents and housing prices, taxes, and benefits.

Jonathan Buttle, a California Department of Finance research program specialist, tells L.A. Weekly that housing is one of the main factors that puts more of us in poverty:

  • Kevin Dean / LA Weekly Flickr pool

One of the major adjustments is they use the geographic adjustment based on an average apartment. They look at various localities in California and other states and apply that adjustment. That is definitely a major factor in why the California poverty rate is much higher under this measure.

With all that thrown in the mix, the Census Bureau says there are more like 8.9 million Californians living in poverty instead of the official number, 6.2 million. With a population of 38 million, that means that about one in four of us is officially in the poorhouse.

We beat out Washington, D.C.'s, poverty rate of 22.7 percent poverty rate under the supplemental calculation.

It doesn't mean we'll get more of our share of federal benefits, however, since the government has yet to use the "supplemental" way of doing things. "It's still considered experimental," says Buttle of the Department of Finance.

Remember that next time you're paying the rent. Your poverty is officially experimental.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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