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Eight of Ten Most Populous States Show at Least Three Years of Decline Since 2012

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Poverty rates declined in 20 states and the District of Columbia from 2016 to 2017, according to data released today.

The 2017 American Community Survey (ACS) 1-year estimates show that in many states, declining poverty was the continuation of a longer trend. In California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and North Carolina, this was the fourth consecutive year of statistically significant declines in the poverty rate.

Eight out of the top 10 most populous states had at least three years of poverty declines between 2012 and 2017.

Poverty Did Not Drop Everywhere

Poverty is not evenly experienced throughout the country.

The poverty rate increased in two states, Delaware and West Virginia. Delaware saw its rate increase from 11.7 percent to 13.6 percent and the rate for West Virginia rose from 17.9 percent to 19.1 percent.

As shown in Figure 1, 13 states had poverty rates below 11 percent, while Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana and West Virginia had a poverty rate of 18 percent or more for 2017.

The poverty rates for North Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska were not statistically different from 11.0 percent.

Figure 2 shows the number of years since 2012 that all states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico experienced statistically significant changes in their year-to-year poverty rates.

Poverty declined in at least three of the five years for 15 states shaded in darker green and Washington, shaded in blue, had three years of decline and one year of increase.

In six of these states (California, Texas, Michigan, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina), poverty declined in four of the five years. Eight out of the top 10 most populous states had at least three years of poverty declines between 2012 and 2017. No state saw poverty decline in all five years.

Figure 3 shows the overall percentage point change in poverty rates since 2012.

Poverty fell in 42 states. In Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Louisiana, the District of Columbia, Alaska and Puerto Rico, changes in poverty over this period were not statistically significant. Poverty increased in Delaware and West Virginia over this time period. 

Alemayehu Bishaw and Craig Benson are Survey Statisticians in the Census Bureau’s Poverty Statistics Branch.

Page Last Revised - October 8, 2021
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