7 States With the Most People in Poverty

A homeless man panhandles on the street on October 11, 2012 in Camden, New Jersey. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Camden, New Jersey is now the most impoverished city in the United States with nearly 32,000 of Camden's residents living below the poverty line. Camden, which sits just over the bridge from more affluent Philadelphia, also has a chronic crime problem with 48 recorded homicides this year alone. A lack of jobs has been a feature of life in Camden since the city lost most of its manufacturing base in the late 60's and 1970's. While the state unemployment rate is about 9.9 percent, Camden's is estimated at 19 percent. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

We all know that the income distribution in the U.S. is completely uneven. According to the most recent Census reports, 80% of people share less than half of the income. And that other 20% has enough money to dive into giant piles of cash like Scrooge McDuck (excuse the dramatic exaggeration).

We often hear about the haves and have-nots. But, as some of us sit and think about how the office worker earns only a fraction of what the executive on the top floor does, we forget that there are also those who do not have enough money to even cover the most basic necessities.

Graphic by Erika Rawes// data from Census Bureau

Graphic by Erika Rawes// data from Census Bureau

The lowest income groups have only the tiniest pieces of the pie. The bottom 20% share only 3% of the income in this country, and the next 20% share only 9%.

There is a large group of people in the U.S. — around 45 million of them — who fit poverty guidelines. That is, they are part of a family of four living off of an annual income of less than $23,850, a couple living off of less than $15,730, or an individual living off of less than $11,670 (per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s most recent publications).

Just like income and wealth, poverty is not spread evenly across the country either. In some areas of the country, the poverty rate is much higher than the official national poverty rate — which was 14.5%, as of 2013. Using Census data on poverty, we’ve created a list of the states with the highest poverty ratings.

States with the most people below poverty

7. Kentucky

  • Number of people living below poverty during 2013: 800,635
  • Percentage of people living below poverty during 2013: 18.8%
  • Number of people living below poverty in 2012: 823,197
  • Percentage difference between 2013 and 2013: –0.6%
  • Food stamp use ranking: Kentucky has the 10th highest food stamp use-percentage in the U.S.

 6. The District of Columbia

  • Number of people living below poverty during 2013: 115,551
  • Percentage of people living below poverty during 2013: 18.9%
  • Number of people living below poverty in 2012: 108,732
  • Percentage difference between 2013 and 2013: 0.4%
  • Food stamp use ranking: D.C. has the number one highest food stamp-use percentage in the U.S.

 5. Georgia

  • Number of people living below poverty during 2013: 1,843,768
  • Percentage of people living below poverty during 2013: 19.0%
  • Number of people living below poverty in 2012: 1,848,533
  • Percentage difference between 2013 and 2013: –0.2%
  • Food stamp use ranking: Georgia has the 8th highest food stamp use-percentage in the U.S.

4. Arkansas

  • Number of people living below poverty during 2013: 565,469
  • Percentage of people living below poverty during 2013: 19.7%
  • Number of people living below poverty in 2012: 568,065
  • Percentage difference between 2013 and 2013: -0.1%
  • Food stamp use ranking: Arkansas has the 16th highest food stamp use-percentage in the U.S.

3. Louisiana

  • Number of people living below poverty during 2013: 888,019
  • Percentage of people living below poverty during 2013: 19.8%
  • Number of people living below poverty in 2012: 891,981
  • Percentage difference between 2013 and 2013: -0.1%
  • Food stamp use ranking: Louisiana has the 7th highest food stamp use-percentage in the U.S.

2. New Mexico

  • Number of people living below poverty during 2013: 448,461
  • Percentage of people living below poverty during 2013: 21.9%
  • Number of people living below poverty in 2012: 426,245
  • Percentage difference between 2013 and 2013: 1.1%
  • Food stamp use ranking: New Mexico has the 3rd highest food stamp use-percentage in the U.S.

1. Mississippi

  • Number of people living below poverty during 2013: 695,915
  • Percentage of people living below poverty during 2013: 24.0%
  • Number of people living below poverty in 2012: 698,252
  • Percentage difference between 2013 and 2013: –0.2%
  • Food stamp use ranking: Mississippi has the 2nd highest food stamp use-percentage in the U.S.

Poverty by state

Here is a state-by-state ranking for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

State Number of People Below Poverty During 2013 Percentage of People Below Poverty During the Year 2013
Mississippi 695,915 24.00%
New Mexico 448,461 21.90%
Louisiana 888,019 19.80%
Arkansas 565,469 19.70%
Georgia 1,843,768 19.00%
District of Columbia 115,551 18.90%
Kentucky 800,635 18.80%
Alabama 883,371 18.70%
Arizona 1,206,460 18.60%
South Carolina 860,380 18.60%
West Virginia 332,347 18.50%
North Carolina 1,715,397 17.90%
Tennessee 1,126,772 17.80%
Texas 4,530,039 17.50%
Florida 253,333 17.00%
Michigan 1,648,436 17.00%
California 6,328,824 16.80%
Oklahoma 626,906 16.80%
Oregon 642,138 16.70%
Montana 163,637 16.50%
New York 3,055,645 16.00%
Ohio 1,796,942 16.00%
Indiana 1,015,127 15.90%
Missouri 931,066 15.90%
Nevada 433,576 15.80%
Idaho 246,550 15.60%
Illinois 1,845,393 14.70%
Rhode Island 144,446 14.30%
South Dakota 115,454 14.20%
Washington 967,282 14.10%
Kansas 393,358 14.00%
Maine 180,639 14.00%
Pennsylvania 1,690,405 13.70%
Wisconsin 755,551 13.50%
Nebraska 239,433 13.20%
Colorado 667,446 13.00%
Iowa 379,127 12.70%
Utah 361,181 12.70%
Delaware 111,327 12.40%
Vermont 74,058 12.30%
Massachusetts 770,513 11.90%
North Dakota 1,626,879 11.80%
Virginia 938,733 11.70%
New Jersey 998,549 11.40%
Minnesota 592,422 11.20%
Wyoming 62,039 10.90%
Hawaii 148,368 10.80%
Connecticut 373,900 10.70%
Maryland 585,571 10.10%
Alaska 67,016 9.30%
New Hampshire 111,495 8.70%
Data Source: Census Bureau ACS Brief

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