Special Report

States Where the Most People Live Below the Poverty Line

The share of Americans living below the poverty line fell each year from 2012 to 2019 – declining from 15.9% to 12.3% over the eight-year period. Though disruptions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the release of 2020 estimates, new census data reveals a reversal of the longer-term trend.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey, the U.S. poverty rate now stands at 12.8%, half a percentage point higher than the 12.3% rate in 2019. As a result, 2021 marks the first time in a decade the national poverty rate worsened.

In most of the country, the Department of Health and Human Services sets the poverty income level at $12,880 annually for an individual and $26,500 for a family of four, with slightly higher income thresholds in Alaska and Hawaii. Nationwide, nearly 41.4 million people live on incomes below the poverty line – and such serious financial hardship is far more common in some states than others.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2021 poverty estimates from the ACS to determine the states where the most people (relatively) live below the poverty line. In each of the 18 states on this list, the poverty rate exceeds the 12.8% national rate.

Among the states on this list, which are mostly located in the South, poverty rates range from 13.1% up to nearly 20%. (Here is a look at America’s poorest big cities.)

Due in part to high poverty rates, residents of the states on this list are more likely to rely on government assistance to afford basic necessities. The share of households receiving SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, exceeds the 12.4% national recipiency rate in all but a handful of these states. (Here is a look at 50 cities with huge populations living on food stamps.)

Click here for the states where the most people live below the poverty line

Click here to see our detailed methodology

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