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 who live in poverty struggle to keep a roof over their heads, put food on the table, or even purchase basic items like clothing, shoes, and hygiene items.
Poverty may occur for a variety of reasons, including:
- The inability of households to own property.
- Limited or no access to education, leading to fewer job opportunities and
- Inherited poverty.
- The systematic exclusion of racial and ethnic minorities, those with disabilities, tribes, and women from accessing certain institutions (such as education) and participating in fair economic enterprise.
The fight to reduce poverty is an on-going battle that cannot happen overnight. Some solutions proposed throughout the years include:
- Increasing employment.
- Raising wages (mainly, the U.S. minimum wage, which is $7.25/hour, coming out to just $15,080 for a full-time job.
- Reform the prison system.
- Strengthen existing unemployment insurance, food stamps (SNAP), and other services.
- Invest in high-quality education for all.
- Tackle inequities in the education system and higher education institutions.
Poverty Rate by U.S. State
Fortunately, the U.S. poverty rate is declining; however, poverty is still a significant problem across the country. The national poverty rate in 2017 was 13.4% after falling for the fifth year in a row and was 12.3% in 2019. Numbers in this article are provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, which uses data from the American Community Survey.
The highest poverty rate in the country is in Mississippi, where 19.6% of the population lives in poverty. However, this has improved from 2012, when the state's poverty rate was nearly 25%. Mississippi has the lowest median household income of any state of $45,792. Mississippi's educational attainment levels are among the lowest in the U.S., with about 84.5% of adults graduating high school and 22% of adults having at least a Bachelor's degree.
The five states with the highest poverty rates are:
On the other hand, New Hampshire's poverty rate is 7.3%, the lowest in the U.S. New Hampshire has the seventh-highest median household income at $76,768 a year. Additionally, New Hampshire's educational attainment levels are very high, with 93.1% of adults having graduated high school and 37% having at least a Bachelor's degree.
The five states with the lowest poverty rates are: