States Where Poverty Is Worse Than You Think

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8. New York
> Supplemental poverty rate: 16.0% (7th highest)
> Official poverty rate: 13.4% (19th highest)
> Cost of living: 15.3% more than national avg. (2nd highest)
> Uninsured rate: 6.1% (18th lowest)

Driven by high rent costs — particularly in New York City — goods and services cost 15.3% more on average in New York state than they do nationwide. The higher cost of living means state residents need to spend more to meet their basic needs — a factor not incorporated in the official state poverty rate of 13.4%. In addition to a range of other important factors not included in the official poverty rate, this may help explain why New York’s supplemental poverty rate is 2.6 percentage points higher than the official rate.

Both New York’s official and supplemental poverty rates are higher than those in most states. This may be tied to the state’s lagging job market. Some 4.9% of New York’s labor force are out of work, well above the U.S. September unemployment rate of 4.2%.

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7. Connecticut
> Supplemental poverty rate: 12.0% (24th lowest)
> Official poverty rate: 9.2% (4th lowest)
> Cost of living: 8.7% more than national avg. (6th highest)
> Uninsured rate: 4.9% (7th lowest)

The typical Connecticut household earns $73,433 a year, more than in all but five other states and about $16,000 more than the typical American household. Further, Connecticut is one of only six states in which fewer than 1 in 10 residents live below the official poverty line.

However, living in Connecticut is not cheap, and the state’s high cost of living makes it harder for lower earners to afford their basic needs. For example, the typical homeowner with a mortgage in the state pays $5,803 a year in property taxes, the second most of any state in the country. High real estate taxes are passed down to renters as well, as rent costs in Connecticut are about 17% higher than they are nationwide on average. Overall, the cost of living in Connecticut is higher than in all but five other states and nearly 9% higher than the average cost of living nationwide. Accounting for a range of factors, including cost of living, the share of Connecticut residents living in poverty is closer to 12.0%.

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6. Florida
> Supplemental poverty rate: 18.8% (2nd highest)
> Official poverty rate: 15.2% (13th highest)
> Cost of living: 0.5% less than national avg. (16th highest)
> Uninsured rate: 12.5% (5th highest)

Out-of-pocket medical costs are one of the biggest expenses the supplemental poverty measure accounts for. Medical bills are typically far higher for both the elderly and the uninsured. In Florida, about 1 in every 5 residents are 65 or older, and 12.5% of the population lacks health insurance, the highest and fifth highest shares of any state, respectively. High medical expenses among specific segments of Florida’s population partly explain why the state’s supplemental poverty measure of 18.8% is higher than its official poverty rate of 15.2%.

Unlike most states where poverty is worse than it seems, the cost of living in Florida is slightly lower than it is nationwide on average.

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5. Virginia
> Supplemental poverty rate: 15.0% (10th highest)
> Official poverty rate: 10.8% (14th lowest)
> Cost of living: 2.5% more than national avg. (12th highest)
> Uninsured rate: 8.7% (19th highest)

Virginia is one of only five states where the supplemental poverty rate is at least 4 percentage points higher than the official poverty rate. Officially, 10.8% of Virginia residents live in poverty compared to 13.7% of all Americans. However, after accounting for the state’s high cost of living, residents’ out-of-pocket medical expenses, and taxes, Virginia’s supplemental poverty rate is 15.0%, compared the 14.7% U.S. poverty rate.

One of the supplemental poverty rates’ primary purposes is to gauge the efficacy of anti-poverty programs. Like the other states on this list, Virginia’s system has not offset the state’s high cost of living for many of its lower earning residents.

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4. Hawaii
> Supplemental poverty rate: 14.8% (12th highest)
> Official poverty rate: 10.3% (10th lowest)
> Cost of living: 18.8% more than national avg. (the highest)
> Uninsured rate: 3.5% (2nd lowest)

Americans age 65 and older are the most likely age group to live in poverty but not be included in the official poverty rate. This is largely because older Americans, who typically need more frequent medical care, face higher out-of-pocket medical costs. The near nation-leading difference between Hawaii’s 10.3% official poverty rate and 14.8% supplemental poverty rate may be partially the result of its sizable elderly population. Some 17.0% of Hawaiians are 65 and older compared to only 15.2% of the U.S. population.

Hawaii’s high cost of living also likely contributes to higher poverty than the official rate implies. With goods and services in the state nearly 19% more expensive on average than they are nationwide, the state is the most expensive in the country.