States Where Poverty Is Worse Than You Think

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Portsmouth Harbor Tugboats, New Hampshire
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11. New Hampshire
> Supplemental poverty rate: 8.7% (the lowest)
> Official poverty rate: 6.7% (the lowest)
> Cost of living: 5.2% greater than nation (9th highest)
> Uninsured rate: 6.3% (13th lowest)

While both measures of poverty in New Hampshire — at 6.7% and 8.7% — are the lowest of any state, the difference between the two — at 2.0 percentage points — is tied as the 11th largest of all states. One reason for the difference may be New Hampshire’s high cost of living. Goods, services, and rent cost roughly five cents more on the dollar in New Hampshire than the country as a whole, a higher cost of living than in all but nine other states.

Like the rest of the country, the difference between the official and supplemental poverty rate is more extreme among the elderly. When adjusted for taxes, medical bills, and other expenses, twice as many New Hampshire residents 65 and over live in poverty than according to the traditional poverty measure estimate.

Las Vegas, Nevada skyline
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10. Nevada
> Supplemental poverty rate: 17.0% (7th highest)
> Official poverty rate: 14.9% (19th highest)
> Cost of living: -2.3% less than nation (20th highest)
> Uninsured rate: 12.3% (7th highest)

The typical Nevada household earns $52,431 annually, about $3,000 less than the national median household income. The state’s 14.9% official poverty rate is somewhat more in line with the official 14.5% national poverty rate. When taxes and other expenses are taken into account, however, the share of residents living in poverty is much larger. Nevada’s 17.0% supplemental poverty rate is the seventh highest in the country and substantially higher than the national supplemental poverty rate of 15.1%.

Unlike nearly every other state where poverty is worse than it seems, the cost of living in Nevada is lower than the national average.

New York Graffiti
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9. New York
> Supplemental poverty rate: 17.9% (3rd highest)
> Official poverty rate: 15.4% (16th highest)
> Cost of living: 15.7% greater than nation (2nd highest)
> Uninsured rate: 7.1% (20th lowest)

While the official count estimates that 3.0 million New York residents live in poverty, the figure climbs to 3.5 million residents when accounting necessary expenses — even after government subsidies are added to individual incomes. The nearly half a million-person difference is one of the largest of any state. The difference between the state’s official rate of 15.4% and the more comprehensive 17.9% supplemental rate is also one of the largest of any state.

One reason for the relatively high supplemental poverty figure is the high cost of living in New York. Rent, and goods and services cost 16 cents more on the dollar than across the country as a whole, the second highest cost of living of any state.