California Is America's Poverty State

Rich in poverty
Rich in poverty

The nickname is the Golden State. And, true to form, we have more billionaires than any other country besides China and the United States itself. But we're also the nation's poorest state. Again.

The U.S. Census Bureau's latest "Supplemental Poverty Measure" concluded that about one in five Golden State residents — 20.6 percent — lives in poverty. But the news isn't all bad. It comes as the bureau also reported that, nationwide, "Real median household income increased by 5.2 percent between 2014 and 2015, while the official poverty rate decreased 1.2 percentage points." 

"The increases were particularly stark for the lowest-income Americans and middle-income Americans — although everybody saw improvement," President Obama said in remarks at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser yesterday. The New York Times called them "the largest economic gains in nearly a generation."

California registered more than five percentage points* higher than the national supplemental figure of 15.1* percent, making it one of only 13 states with a supplemental poverty rate higher than that of the United States. The bureau, of course, blames "housing costs" and other extraordinary expenses in states like ours. 

Indeed, while California remains the state with the largest percentage of poor residents, the Golden State has seen improvement. The unofficial supplemental measure takes into account cost of living, rent, taxes and other factors. The last time the census measured poverty this way, in 2013, nearly one in four Californians was officially poor.  According to the bureau's new analysis, nearly 8 million of California's 39 million residents are living in poverty. That's nearly a million fewer people living in poverty here than in 2013. Only Washington, D.C., had a higher percentage — 22.2 percent — of residents living in poverty in the latest report. 

In its own analysis in 2013, the Public Policy Institute of California found that Los Angeles County, with more than one in four residents — nearly 27 percent — considered poor, was the state's poverty leader. The median individual income in L.A. County is  $27,987; the official national poverty income for a family of four is $24,300.

California also had a nation-leading 3.9 percentage point drop in the number of uninsured between 2014 and 2015, according to the census bureau report.


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