According to new U.S. Census Bureau statistics, California — once again — has the highest poverty rate of any state in the country. However, despite the heavy economic toll of COVID-19, the state’s poverty rate actually fell last year. Why? Largely because of federal aid. “Federal stimulus payments and unemployment insurance kept millions of citizens out of poverty,” said Caroline Danielson, senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California. “We can see that those programs really did make a big difference,” she said. The census measures poverty in a few different ways. Its supplemental poverty measure takes into account regional cost of living, as well as the effects of government aid. Using this approach, California consistently has the highest poverty rate in the country — eclipsing states such as Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana. And 2020 was no different. The latest supplemental poverty measure puts California’s poverty rate at 15.4%. No other state had a higher rate (though the District of Columbia came in at 16.5%).
Unaffordable housing costs are primarily to blame for California’s nation-leading poverty rate.