1 in 4 Californians Is Straight-Up Poor, Feds Say

This particular neighborhood is media rich.
This particular neighborhood is media rich.
Omar Barcena/Flickr

We recently told you that California is America's "richest state," which is true. Now we're telling you that, for the third year in a row, California has been named as America's poorest state. That's also true.

See also: California Is America's Richest State

How can both statements be accurate? Well, unfortunately, the Golden State is symptomatic of the increasing gap between rich and poor in America. We have more cash here than most countries. But few people can actually call it their own.

Using supplemental data, the U.S. Census Bureau determined this week that California has a higher percentage of people living in poverty than any other state in the nation.

That percentage over a three-year period, from 2011 to 2013, is 23.4 percent, or nearly 1 in 4 of us.

The Census' annual "Supplemental Poverty Measure" report is not, however, the nation's official word on poverty. Says the Census:

Unlike the official poverty rate, the supplemental poverty measure takes into account the impact of different benefits and necessary expenses on the resources available to families, as well as geographic differences in housing costs.

California's official poverty figure—15.3 percent of us living below the line—is about average.

But when you calculate those "geographic differences," which for us include insane housing costs, our rate skyrockets, beating out number two Washington, D.C. (22.4 percent impoverished by the supplemental measure).

Sarah Bohn, a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, recently analyzed the numbers and concluded that ...

 ... This finding is largely driven by California’s high cost of living, rather than by sharply limited resources among its families. Using the California Poverty Measure we find that California’s housing costs loom large. 

It doesn't feel like we live in a place of abject poverty, however. Bohn explained to us that it's all relative:

California looks worse than many other states in terms of the gap bet rich and poor. The story is that California is not resource poor. We're just kind of cost-of-living poor. The vast majority of poor children and poor people in California are in families that have members who are working.

So if you're feeling down about treading water financially, we hope this makes you feel better. If you lived anywhere else, you'd almost be rich.

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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