15 States Where Poverty Is Worse Than You Might Think

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Source: ChrisBoswell / Getty Images

10. New Hampshire
> Supplemental poverty rate: 8.2% (6th lowest)
> Official poverty rate: 6.4% (the lowest)
> Cost of living: 5.8% more than national avg. (9th highest)
> SNAP recipiency: 6.7% (3rd lowest)
> Median household income: $74,991 (7th highest)

After adjusting for taxes, medical costs, cost of living, and other expenses included in the supplemental poverty measure, the percentage of individuals living below the poverty line in New Hampshire rises from 6.4% — the lowest in the country — to 8.2%, the sixth lowest.

The Census Bureau identified the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as the third most impactful anti-poverty program after Social Security and refundable tax credits, as measured by the difference between the official poverty rate and supplemental poverty measure rate. In New Hampshire, just 75.0% of eligible individuals receive SNAP benefits, the 11th smallest share of any state. Also, the typical monthly benefit was just $101 per person in fiscal 2017, the smallest amount nationwide.

9. Colorado
> Supplemental poverty rate: 10.8% (21st lowest)
> Official poverty rate: 8.9% (5th lowest)
> Cost of living: 3.2% more than national avg. (11th highest)
> SNAP recipiency: 7.2% (5th lowest)
> Median household income: $71,953 (11th highest)

After adjusting for expenses such as medical costs and taxes, as well as for anti-poverty subsidies like Social Security and SNAP, the poverty rate in Colorado rises from 8.9% to 10.9% — an increase of 107,000 people.

One factor contributing to the increase may be low WIC recipiency. The federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program provides grant money to states for food, health care, and nutrition education for low-income women and children and has a significant impact on the share of individuals living below the poverty line. Just 41.0% of eligible women and children in Colorado receive WIC benefits, the fourth smallest share of any state.

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8. Virginia
> Supplemental poverty rate: 12.8% (17th highest)
> Official poverty rate: 10.7% (19th lowest)
> Cost of living: 2.1% more than national avg. (13th highest)
> SNAP recipiency: 7.9% (8th lowest)
> Median household income: $72,577 (10th highest)

After adjusting for medical expenses, work expenses, taxes, and other factors included in the supplemental poverty measure, the percentage of Virginia residents considered living below the poverty line rises from 10.7% to 12.8% — an increase of 177,000 people.

One factor accounting for the large spike may be the low SNAP recipiency rate in the state. An October 2019 Census Bureau study determined that SNAP had the third greatest effect of any federal anti-poverty subsidy on keeping individuals above the federal poverty line, as measured by the supplemental poverty measure. In Virginia, just 75.0% of eligible individuals receive SNAP benefits, the 11th smallest share of any state.

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7. New York
> Supplemental poverty rate: 14.0% (9th highest)
> Official poverty rate: 11.8% (23rd highest)
> Cost of living: 15.8% more than national avg. (2nd highest)
> SNAP recipiency: 14.6% (7th highest)
> Median household income: $67,844 (14th highest)

Under the official rate, 11.8% of New York residents are considered to be living below the poverty line, less than the 12.3% national poverty rate. After adjusting for medical costs, taxes, and other expenses, however, the percentage rises to 13.7% — more than the 13.1% national supplemental poverty measure rate.

High rents in New York City — where over 40% of the population of New York state lives — are likely one factor driving the high SPM rate. The typical home in New York state costs $325,500, the eighth highest median home value of any state. Overall, goods and services cost 15.8% more in the state than they do nationwide, the second highest cost of living in the country.

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6. Delaware
> Supplemental poverty rate: 11.9% (23rd highest)
> Official poverty rate: 9.6% (11th lowest)
> Cost of living: 0.1% more than national avg. (14th highest)
> SNAP recipiency: 11.3% (24th highest)
> Median household income: $64,805 (16th highest)

Under the official measure, 9.6% of Delaware residents are considered to be living below the poverty line, the 11th smallest share of any state. After adjusting for expenses such as medical costs and taxes, as well as anti-poverty subsidies like Social Security and SNAP, the percentage increases to 11.9% — the 23rd highest SPM rate of any state.

An October 2019 Census Bureau report analyzing the effects of various federal subsidies on poverty determined that unemployment insurance has a significant impact on the number of people considered to be living below the poverty line. In Delaware, however, the average weekly unemployment insurance benefit is just $266.76, approximately $100 less than the national average.