Andrew DePietro – Contributor
Nov 4, 2021
According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau — namely, the 2019 American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates — the U.S. poverty rate nationally is 13.4%. This means that 13.4% of the national population lives below the poverty line. This is equal to more than approximately 42.5 million Americans living below the poverty line.
While there’s still room for improvement, the poverty rate in America has gotten better over the last five years. In 2014, the share of the U.S. population living below the poverty line was 15.6%, equivalent to more than 47.7 million Americans. Fortunately, both on the national level and on the state level (for the overwhelming majority of states), poverty rates have declined from 2014 to 2019. Let’s take a look at U.S. poverty rates by state, and see which ones have fared the best and which ones the worst.
One piece of good news about poverty rates in America is that, in most states, the percentage of the population living below the poverty line has declined over the last five years. Mississippi, which has the highest poverty rate of all states, actually witnessed its share of people living below the poverty line decline from 22.6% in 2014, down to 20.3% in 2019; an improvement certainly, but it still represents just over a fifth of the population.
Here are the 10 states with the highest poverty rates as of the latest Census data:
Mississippi’s poverty rate is the highest in the country, as is its poverty rate for seniors. The percent of the population aged 65 years and over that lives below the poverty line in 2019 is 12.8%, tied with Louisiana for the highest level among this age group.
The state that experienced the biggest decline in its poverty rate is Oregon, especially in Salem, the state capital, according to Salem Reporter. Back in 2014, the percentage of the population living below the poverty line was 16.7%. It then fell 3.5%, reaching 13.2% in 2019, which is slightly better than the U.S. poverty rate nationally, 13.4%. The largest increase in poverty rate by state is Alaska, where the 2014 share of the population below the poverty line stood at 10.1%, before rising 0.6%, to its current level of 10.7%. Now, Alaska’s 10.7% poverty rate is better than the national average and better than most states; it is, however, the only state to witness an increase in its poverty rate out of all 50 states from 2014 to 2019.
Looking on the flipside, many U.S. states boast poverty rates that are well under the national average of 13.4%, with several having poverty rates that are less than 10%, which is an impressive feat. Here are the 10 states with the lowest poverty rates:
Utah has one of the most remarkable trends, witnessing its poverty rate decline by three percentage points, from 12.8% in 2014, down to its current level of 9.8%. It’s likely no coincidence that Utah’s economy has been a powerhouse of activity, boasting one of the biggest growths in real GDP over the last five years. Colorado, too, is no slouch, with its share of people living below the poverty line declining from 13.1% in 2014 to 10.3% in 2019. In all, there are seven states that experienced a decline of 3% or more in their poverty rates over the last five years.