CA Surpasses Mississippi, Lousiana as Most Impoverished State

Nearly a quarter of Californians live in poverty, new study finds

By Andrew Lopez
|  Friday, Nov 8, 2013  |  Updated 5:17 PM PDT
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Poverty In CA Is Worse Than in Mississippi

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An alternative method of measuring poverty revealed that California is the most impoverished state in the country, with nearly a quarter of its residents living below the poverty line due mostly to housing costs.

The number of poor Californians jumped from 6.2 million to nearly 9 million over three years, according to the United States Census Bureau, who used in their study factors such as housing costs, tax credits and other programs that assist low-income families.

Though some experts say the report might underestimate safety-net benefits offered in the state, overall it does point to a state struggling to keep up with living costs.

"A large number of Californians are under economic distress," said Marybeth Mattingly, a research consultant at Stanford who works on the California Poverty Measure.

The poverty line in Los Angeles was $30,785 for a family of four, according to Mattingly.

Under the study, a household of two adults and two children earning less than about $35,000 would be considered below the poverty line, said Ann Stevens, director for the Center for Poverty Research at UC Davis. That number was increased from just over $23,000 used in the official poverty measure in 2012.

“It is almost entirely the cost of housing that is used to make the adjustment,” Stevens said. “It draws attention to the combination of the resources that Californians have and the costs that they face.”

The new study does a better job than the official measuring stick of accounting for all expenditures and income a family can expect in a given year, Stevens said.

The report shows that 23.8 percent of Californians are living below the poverty line, surpassing Louisiana and Mississippi, which historically lead the country under standard poverty measurements.

Mississippi's average fell from 20.7 percent to 16.1 percent under the alternative measuring stick, while Louisiana fell from 21.3 percent to 18.5 percent.

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