A Federal report shows that California has the highest poverty rate in the United States. According to the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) formulated by the U.S. Census Bureau for 2017, California's poverty rate was estimated to be 19 percent. While that shows a slight drop of 1.4 percent from the previous year, the Golden State still holds the distinction of being tops in poverty.
Caroline Danielson, the policy director at the Public Policy Institute of California, reacted to the news in an emailed response to Spero News. “California’s families mainly rely on earnings to make ends meet—for example, our research indicates that 84 percent of poor children lived in a family with at least one working adult. At the same time, the cost of housing is high in many parts of the state,” Danielson wrote. ‘
"While official poverty rates do not account for differing housing costs, SPM rates do. The SPM also adds resources from large-scale social safety programs—for example, the Earned Income Tax Credit and food assistance programs like SNAP—to family earnings. These resources are not accounted for in official poverty calculations. On balance, though, California’s high cost of living pulls the state’s poverty rate up," she added.
According to the institute’s estimates, the high cost of housing in California helped to advance its poverty rate relative to other states. The high cost of housing has kept California near the top of the SPM since 2011, when the Census Bureau began releasing data for it.
California’s 1.4 percent drop was consistent with trends for the whole country, which experiences an overall drop in poverty from 12.7 percent to 12.3 percent in 2017. Poverty rates have been dropping nationally over the last three years, according to federal data.
According to the federal report, the states in which the SPM rates were higher than the official poverty rates were, in order of precedence: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Virginia. The SPM rate for the District of Columbia was also higher. Most of these states have governors representing the Democratic party, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, and Illinois.
The 18 states where SPM rates were lower than the official poverty rates were: Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The report noted: Lower SPM rates could occur due to lower thresholds reflecting lower housing costs, a different mix of housing tenure, or more generous noncash benefits. “The 16 states that were not statistically different under the two measures include Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and