Poverty in the United States was falling prior to the pandemic — the share of the population with incomes below the federal poverty rate fell from 13.1% in 2018 to 12.3% in 2019, the most recent year of data available. Of course, since COVID-19 reached the United States in early 2020, the financial situation of millions of Americans has deteriorated, even as a number of the nation’s wealthiest saw their fortunes increase by billions of dollars.
Many Americans owe months of back rent, and many still face an unstable job situation or ongoing unemployment. According to a survey conducted between late May and early June by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 27% of Americans surveyed said that it was somewhat difficult or very difficult to afford their usual expenses. Even before COVID-19 hit, the national poverty rate ignored the fact that financial hardship varies widely across the United States, with people in some parts of the country much more likely to have poverty-level incomes compared to others.
To determine the states with the highest and lowest poverty rates, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed one-year estimates of the percentage of people in each state who live below the poverty line from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.
While poverty rates do not correspond perfectly with median incomes, states with higher poverty rates tend to have lower incomes. They of course also tend to have higher shares of residents receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, formerly known as food stamps.