What is Poverty?
Poverty is usually defined as lacking the money or material possessions to live securely. The US government measures poverty by using poverty thresholds. These thresholds are determined as the point at which a household has insufficient pre-tax income to meet its food requirements and other basic needs.
Poverty in the US
Most people around the world think of the United States as a wealthy country. While that may be true at a national level, many individuals within the country are currently living in poverty. In fact, in 2015, 13.5% of the population lived at poverty level. In 2016, that increased to 14.8%. Children and senior citizens seem to be most affected with 14% of the senior population and 18% of children living in poverty. Current statistics indicate that the majority of individuals will live in poverty for at least 1 year of their life between 25 and 75 years of age. Additionally, poverty is more common in rural areas and inner cities than in the country’s suburban neighborhoods.
Poverty is a social and economic problem that does not seem to be improving in the US. For example, the number of people living in extreme poverty, less than $2 per day, doubled between 1996 and 2011. The situation is so pronounced that the International Monetary Fund issued a warning to the US government in June of 2016. This warning recommended that the government fight poverty throughout the nation by raising the minimum wage and mandating paid maternity leave to incentivize women to join the workforce. This article takes a look at the rate of poverty on a state level.
US States By Poverty Rate
Mississippi has the highest rate of poverty in the country at 21.9%. The poverty line is defined as a $24,250 annual salary for a household size of 4. This state has a population size of nearly 2.9 million of which, 637,128 individuals live at or below the poverty line. Children are most affected by poverty in Mississippi with 31.1% of the population under 18 years of age included in this statistic. This is followed by 23.5% of working-age women (between 18 and 64 years of age) living in poverty. Factors contributing to poverty in Mississippi include: a 6.5% unemployment rate, 22.4% of the population that does not graduate high school on time or ever, and 20% of youth between 18 and 24 years of age that are neither studying nor working.
New Mexico has the second highest rate of poverty at 20.6%. This state has a population size of 2,044,431 of which, 417,834 individuals are living at or below the poverty line. Like Mississippi, the demographic most disproportionately affected by poverty is children with 28.5% included in the statistic. Approximately 20.6% of working-age women are considered to be living in poverty as well. Other factors concerning poverty in New Mexico include: a 6.6% unemployment rate, 31.5% of the population that does not graduate high school on time or ever, and 17% of youth between 18 and 24 years of age that are neither studying nor working.
Louisiana comes in third place with a 19.9% poverty rate. This state has a population of just over 5.4 million of which, 889,946 residents are living in poverty. Again, children are disproportionately affected with 28.1% of the population under the age of 18 considered to be living in poverty. This is followed by 20.7% of working-age women. Other poverty statistics include: a 6.3% unemployment rate, 25.4% of the population that does not graduate high school on time or ever, and 20% of youth between 18 and 24 years of age that are neither studying nor working.
The chart published below has a complete list of the poverty rate per US state.