Poverty is defined as not having enough income to meet basic needs. This goes beyond just not having enough money for a new vehicle, smartphone, or to take a vacation. Instead, people that live in poverty struggle to keep a roof over their heads, to put food on the table, or to even purchase basic items like clothing, shoes, and hygiene items.
Poverty in the United States may occur for a variety of reasons. Unemployment, for example, or not having the skills or education to get a job that meets basic living expenses.
Fortunately, the poverty rate in the U.S. is on the decline, but that doesn’t mean that poverty doesn’t exist. The national poverty rate in 2017 was 13.4% after falling for the fifth year in a row.
The highest poverty rate in the country by state was reported in Mississippi. The poverty rate in 2017 was 19.8% -- or roughly 571,000 inhabitants. However, this has declined since 2012, when the state’s poverty rate was nearly 25%.
Louisiana and New Mexico were both tied for second place with poverty rates of 19.7%. New Mexico, however, has seen quite a decline in the past few years, as its rate was almost 22% in 2013.
Coming in right behind Louisiana and Mexico is West Virginia with a poverty rate of 19.1%. This means that roughly 336,000 West Virginians lived in poverty in 2017.
Poverty is defined as a state of extreme levels of destitution. People are poor when their income falls below a certain threshold of money, which is determined by the United States Census Bureau. You might naturally associate the concept of being poor strictly with homeless individuals whom you pass on the streets, but not everyone who lives in poverty is without a house. Many people you might not associate with poverty are very poor, and it can be really hard to make ends meet in the United States, especially if the jobs people work do not compensate for the cost of living.
The United States Census Bureau measures poverty levels by looking at viewing the results of a plethora of studies, surveys, and research. The Census Bureau takes a look at work supplied by the Annual Social and Economic Supplement, or ASEC for short, as well as the Current Population Survey, or CPS. Three other sources from which the Census Bureau draws include...
- The American Community Survey
- The Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates
- The Survey of Income and Program Participation
Here are the poverty rates of the top ten richest states in the USA…
- New Hampshire 8.1%
- Minnesota 10.5%
- Hawaii 10.3%
- North Dakota 11.0%
- Maryland 9.7%
- Utah 11.0%
- Virginia 11.2%
- Massachusetts 11.1%
- Wyoming 11.1%
- Vermont 11.4%
These percentages were calculated in December of 2018, and each state’s poverty percentage was calculated alongside the unemployment rates and average household incomes as well.
A more in-depth review was put out by the World Atlas a couple of months prior. In their article, the World Atlas had slightly different reportings along with slightly different percentages for each state. The top ten states with the lowest poverty rates are not identical in this article to the findings in the latter, but this is the most conclusive article of poverty in the United States to date, so we will use it for reference as well.
There is a 12.2% discrepancy between New Hampshire, the state with the lowest poverty rate, and Mississippi, the state with the highest poverty rate. In New Hampshire, roughly 9.2% of the population was considered in poverty, as of 2018. In the same year, about 21.9% of those who live in Mississippi were considered to be at or below the poverty line. Here is a breakdown of each state once more, but this time, the states are followed by the percentage of people who are in poverty there.
To put the current poverty rates into perspective, here is a list of all fifty states, along with their respective poverty rates in 2014. By glancing at the past and seeing what the poverty levels were like five years ago, we can deduce and draw conclusions regarding the direction of poverty across the nation.