The most recent Census data shows 14.5% of Americans, or 45.3 million people, live below the poverty line of $US23,834 per year for a family of four. Poverty is heavily concentrated in the South.
Despite steady economic growth since 2009, the US’ poverty rate remains fairly high due to the concentration of wealth at the top of the economic spectrum, the report concludes. In 2013, the top 5% of Americans took in more than 22.3% of all income.
Here are the 10 poorest states in the union:
Poverty rate: 24.1%
Mississippi is the poorest state in the US, with 695,915 people living below the poverty line. It also ranks last in its rate of child poverty (33.7%), and next to last in hunger and food insecurity. Mississippi — along with Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina — has no state minimum wage, but the unemployed are largely covered by state welfare programs.
2) New Mexico
Poverty rate: 22%
In New Mexico, 31% of children live in poverty, and many of them are homeless. New Mexico has the highest teen birth rate in the country, with 47.5 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19 in 2012. But the state ranks eighth-best for number children living with their parents: only four in every 1,000 live in foster care. New Mexico has been slow to recover from the national recession. In 2012 alone, 3,900 people working in the public sector lost their jobs.
Poverty rate: 19.8%
Louisiana is the most unequal state in the country in terms of its gender wage gap: women earned just 66% of what men earned in 2013. Louisiana is also the third most unequal state overall: in 2013, the share of income going to the top 20% of households in Louisiana was 18.5 times that going to the bottom 20%. Its unemployment rate, however, is fairly low, at 6.2%.
Poverty rate: 19%
Almost two million Georgians currently live below the poverty line, and 21% of residents ages 18 to 24 were not in school or working as of 2012. Benefits are scarce: 84% of unemployed workers in Georgia do not receive any kind of unemployment insurance — even as poverty is soaring, fewer than 4,000 adults in Georgia receive welfare.
5) Washington, D.C.
Poverty rate: 18.9%
Washington, D.C. has the highest level of income inequality in the country: in 2013, the share of income going to the top 20% of households in Washington, D.C. was 30.3 times the share received by the bottom 20%. Only 59% of high school students graduated in 2012 — the national average is just over 80%. D.C. adults ages 25-24 are among the most educated in the country, however, with 70.2% having obtained an associate’s degree or higher as of 2012.
Poverty rate: 18.8%
At just over 8%, Kentucky’s unemployment rate is one of the highest in the country. The eastern Kentucky counties of Clay, Jackson, Lee, and Leslie have fared particularly poorly: the unemployment rate in Clay County is 12.7% and only 7.4% of the population has a bachelor’s degree or higher, The New York Times reported.
Poverty rate: 18.7%
More than one in four children live in poverty in this rural Southern state. From 2011 to 2013, 16.7% of Alabama households were food insecure, meaning they struggled to provide enough food for their families. Nearly one million Alabamians were dependent on food stamps in 2013, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.
Poverty rate: 18.6%
Much like Georgia, the percentage of unemployed Arizonians receiving welfare from the state is very low. As of 2012, almost one in five young people ages 18-24 were neither in school nor working. Despite Arizona’s high rate of poverty and unemployment, only 6.7% of unemployed workers in Arizona were helped by unemployment insurance in 2013.
9) South Carolina
Poverty rate: 18.6%
South Carolina has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the country, with 27.3% of children living below the poverty line in 2013. South Carolina’s median household income was $US23,906 in 2012, and it was even less for African Americans ($US15,398) and Hispanics ($US13,681), according to the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs office.
10) West Virginia
Poverty rate: 18.5%
West Virginia has traditionally relied on its mining industry for jobs and growth. But as mining jobs become increasingly scarce, West Virginians — many of whom never obtained a college degree — are finding themselves stuck. Only 31.3% of young adults ages 25 to 34 had an associate’s degree or higher as of 2012, and women earn far less than men. In 2013, women’s median earnings were 69% those of men.