States Where Poverty Is Worse Than You Think
Most agree the poor deserve public help. But where should the line dividing poor from non-poor be set? The U.S. government answered this question in 1963 by by setting official poverty thresholds according to an estimate of basic need. This figure is updated every year for price changes. Today, the annual poverty level income is $12,060 for an individual, and $24,600 for a family of four.
Poverty thresholds are the same nationwide, with no separate guidance for different states or cities and the varied conditions within those areas. Poverty thresholds do not account for differences in cost of living, taxes, and government assistance programs — all of which can be different not only by state but sometimes even by city.
> Supplemental poverty rate: 15.0% (10th highest)
> Official poverty rate: 18.2% (4th highest)
> Cost of living: 11.4% less than national avg. (5th lowest)
> Uninsured rate: 5.1% (8th lowest)
About 142,000 fewer people in Kentucky live in poverty than the state’s 18.2% official poverty rate suggests. Like many states with lower supplemental poverty rates, living in Kentucky is not particularly expensive. Basic needs like food, clothing, shelter, and utilities cost about 11.4% less in the state than they do on average nationwide. After factoring in Kentucky’s low cost of living, the state’s fourth highest 18.2% poverty rate falls to the 10th highest supplemental poverty rate of 15.0%.
A stronger economy would likely go further in alleviating poverty in Kentucky, as joblessness is more of a problem in the state than it is nationwide. Some 5.2% of the state’s labor force is out of work, the fourth highest unemployment rate among states and a full percentage point above the U.S. unemployment rate.