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Mapping Poverty: The Poverty Rates in Each U.S. State Over Time

Back in 2019, the U.S. had seen five years of declined poverty rates and recorded the lowest average poverty rate ever at 10.5%. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit one year later, this number rose by 8.5% to 11.4%, pushing an additional 3.3 million Americans into poverty.

Using U.S. Census data, we analyzed the poverty rates in each state over time to find out which states have seen the highest and lowest poverty rates historically. This allowed us to establish which ones have been hit the most financially by the pandemic.

Contents:

Key Facts

Poverty rates in the U.S.

Let’s start with what defines poverty in the U.S. The poverty threshold depends on factors such as age and family size. In 2020, the official poverty threshold for one person under the age of 65 with no children was an average yearly income of $13,465.

In 2020, 37.2 million people were below the poverty threshold in the U.S. The number of people living in poverty differs vastly among states. While New Hampshire has had an average poverty rate of 6.86% since 1980, while Mississippi has seen an average poverty rate of 21.39%. 

Poverty rates in each state map animation

The southern states are the most poverty-stricken, and in 2020, the South saw an average poverty rate of 13.3%, an increase of 11% compared to the previous year.

The West saw an average rate of 10.6% in 2020 while the Northeast and Northwest both saw an average poverty rate of 10.1%.

COVID-19 pandemic poverty rates

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the poverty rate increased in 39 of the 50 states. With a jump of nearly 68%, New Hampshire saw the largest growth in poverty out of all states. Despite this rise, the state's population still experiences the lowest poverty rate (6.2%) in the country. The state that saw the second largest growth in poverty was Delaware, where the poverty rate rose by 61.54% from 6.5% in 2019 to 10.5% in 2020. 

In Vermont, the poverty rate remained the same between 2019 and 2020, while 12 states saw a decrease. Maine saw the most substantial decline with a drop from 10.4% in 2019 to 8% in 2020. 

State % of the population living in poverty 2019 % of the population living in poverty 2020  Change State Median Income Per Household (2019) State Median Income Per Household (2020)
State:New Hampshire % of the population living in poverty 20193.70% % of the population living in poverty 20206.20% Change:+67.57% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$81,000.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$86,800.00
State:Delaware % of the population living in poverty 20196.50% % of the population living in poverty 202010.50% Change:+61.54% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$65,002.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$74,051.00
State:Minnesota % of the population living in poverty 20195.70% % of the population living in poverty 20208.40% Change:+47.37% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$72,070.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$81,260.00
State:Oklahoma % of the population living in poverty 201910.80% % of the population living in poverty 202015.50% Change:+43.52% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$54,005.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$59,303.00
State:Connecticut % of the population living in poverty 20198.30% % of the population living in poverty 202011.20% Change:+34.94% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$73,011.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$87,005.00
State:District of Columbia % of the population living in poverty 201912.50% % of the population living in poverty 202016.70% Change:+33.60% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$85,101.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$93,000.00
State:North Dakota % of the population living in poverty 20198.10% % of the population living in poverty 202010.70% Change:+32.10% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$66,005.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$70,000.00
State:Maryland % of the population living in poverty 20197.00% % of the population living in poverty 20209.20% Change:+31.43% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$86,051.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$95,310.00
State:Alaska % of the population living in poverty 201910.20% % of the population living in poverty 202013.30% Change:+30.39% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$68,400.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$78,038.00
State:New Jersey % of the population living in poverty 20196.30% % of the population living in poverty 20208.20% Change:+30.16% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$74,100.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$87,352.00
State:Hawaii % of the population living in poverty 20198.40% % of the population living in poverty 202010.90% Change:+29.76% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$80,000.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$88,101.00
State:Idaho % of the population living in poverty 20197.10% % of the population living in poverty 20209.20% Change:+29.58% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$58,729.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$65,326.00
State:Texas % of the population living in poverty 201911.10% % of the population living in poverty 202014.00% Change:+26.13% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$59,703.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$67,280.00
State:Nevada % of the population living in poverty 201910.40% % of the population living in poverty 202012.90% Change:+24.04% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$61,900.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$70,627.00
State:Pennsylvania % of the population living in poverty 20198.70% % of the population living in poverty 202010.60% Change:+21.84% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$64,305.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$69,913.00
State:Indiana % of the population living in poverty 201910.10% % of the population living in poverty 202012.00% Change:+18.81% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$59,690.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$66,882.00
State:Washington % of the population living in poverty 20197.00% % of the population living in poverty 20208.30% Change:+18.57% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$79,801.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$82,175.00
State:Oregon % of the population living in poverty 20198.10% % of the population living in poverty 20209.40% Change:+16.05% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$69,358.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$73,900.00
State:Alabama % of the population living in poverty 201912.90% % of the population living in poverty 202014.90% Change:+15.50% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$49,396.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$55,935.00
State:Florida % of the population living in poverty 201911.50% % of the population living in poverty 202013.20% Change:+14.78% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$54,401.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$58,150.00
State:Montana % of the population living in poverty 20199.70% % of the population living in poverty 202011.00% Change:+13.40% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$58,000.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$60,000.00
State:Missouri % of the population living in poverty 20199.40% % of the population living in poverty 202010.60% Change:+12.77% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$61,110.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$60,010.00
State:Massachusetts % of the population living in poverty 20197.50% % of the population living in poverty 20208.40% Change:+12.00% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$86,651.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$87,264.00
State:South Dakota % of the population living in poverty 201910.60% % of the population living in poverty 202011.60% Change:+9.43% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$59,344.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$63,600.00
State:Arizona % of the population living in poverty 20199.90% % of the population living in poverty 202010.80% Change:+9.09% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$62,311.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$70,080.00
State:Georgia % of the population living in poverty 201912.10% % of the population living in poverty 202013.20% Change:+9.09% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$56,000.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$56,480.00
State:California % of the population living in poverty 201910.10% % of the population living in poverty 202011.00% Change:+8.91% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$70,001.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$78,002.00
State:Michigan % of the population living in poverty 201910.20% % of the population living in poverty 202011.10% Change:+8.82% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$60,002.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$63,769.00
State:North Carolina % of the population living in poverty 201912.70% % of the population living in poverty 202013.70% Change:+7.87% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$52,943.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$60,300.00
State:New Mexico % of the population living in poverty 201915.30% % of the population living in poverty 202016.50% Change:+7.84% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$48,000.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$53,021.00
State:Wyoming % of the population living in poverty 20199.20% % of the population living in poverty 20209.80% Change:+6.52% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$62,002.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$64,587.00
State:Ohio % of the population living in poverty 201912.40% % of the population living in poverty 202012.70% Change:+2.42% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$61,398.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$64,782.00
State:Kentucky % of the population living in poverty 201913.60% % of the population living in poverty 202013.90% Change:+2.21% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$54,616.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$55,520.00
State:Colorado % of the population living in poverty 20199.30% % of the population living in poverty 20209.50% Change:+2.15% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$72,620.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$72,400.00
State:West Virginia % of the population living in poverty 201913.90% % of the population living in poverty 202014.10% Change:+1.44% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$50,180.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$53,520.00
State:Utah % of the population living in poverty 20197.30% % of the population living in poverty 20207.40% Change:+1.37% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$76,613.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$84,517.00
State:Tennessee % of the population living in poverty 201913.10% % of the population living in poverty 202013.20% Change:+0.76% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$55,601.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$56,615.00
State:Arkansas % of the population living in poverty 201914.10% % of the population living in poverty 202014.20% Change:+0.71% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$49,778.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$54,322.00
State:Vermont % of the population living in poverty 20198.60% % of the population living in poverty 20208.60% Change:0.00% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$69,844.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$73,800.00
State:Kansas % of the population living in poverty 20199.50% % of the population living in poverty 20209.10% Change:-4.21% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$63,726.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$73,110.00
State:Nebraska % of the population living in poverty 20198.70% % of the population living in poverty 20208.30% Change:-4.60% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$67,653.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$73,000.00
State:Wisconsin % of the population living in poverty 20198.40% % of the population living in poverty 20208.00% Change:-4.76% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$62,676.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$67,163.00
State:Iowa % of the population living in poverty 20199.50% % of the population living in poverty 20209.00% Change:-5.26% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$68,844.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$65,635.00
State:New York % of the population living in poverty 201912.50% % of the population living in poverty 202011.80% Change:-5.60% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$67,105.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$71,300.00
State:Rhode Island % of the population living in poverty 20199.20% % of the population living in poverty 20208.50% Change:-7.61% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$62,341.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$70,002.00
State:Mississippi % of the population living in poverty 201919.20% % of the population living in poverty 202017.50% Change:-8.85% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$43,000.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$44,092.00
State:Virginia % of the population living in poverty 20198.80% % of the population living in poverty 20207.80% Change:-11.36% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$76,786.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$81,000.00
State:South Carolina % of the population living in poverty 201915.10% % of the population living in poverty 202013.30% Change:-11.92% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$57,090.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$61,476.00
State:Louisiana % of the population living in poverty 201917.90% % of the population living in poverty 202015.40% Change:-13.97% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$49,665.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$51,760.00
State:Illinois % of the population living in poverty 20199.30% % of the population living in poverty 20208.00% Change:-13.98% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$70,000.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$74,030.00
State:Maine % of the population living in poverty 201910.40% % of the population living in poverty 20208.00% Change:-23.08% State Median Income Per Household (2019):$58,001.00 State Median Income Per Household (2020):$65,800.00

The groups hardest hit financially by the pandemic

The demographic groups most financially affected by the pandemic are women, young people, Hispanics and Black people.

Gender

12.6% of women lived in poverty in the U.S. in 2020, an increase of 9.5% compared to the previous year (10.2%). The poverty rates also increased for men as a result of the pandemic (from 9.4% in 2019), but at a lower rate of 8.2%. This brings the total percentage of men living in poverty up to 10.2%.

Age

For young people (under 18 years), the poverty rates rose 11% to 16.1% from 14.5% between 2019 and 2020. People aged 18-64 saw a rise of 10% from 9.4% in 2019 to 10.4% in 2020. People aged 65 years and older experienced the least significant financial hit at an increase of 0.1% to a total average poverty rate of 9% nationwide.

Race

At an increase of 8%, Hispanics experienced the biggest financial hit since the pandemic began. The number of Black people in poverty rose by 4% to a total of 19.5% across the nation.

States with the highest poverty rates over time 

Between 1980 and 2020, Mississippi has seen the highest poverty rate out of all states for 22 non-consecutive years.  New Mexico has topped the list eight times, while Louisiana has ranked highest five times. Over the past 40 years, Mississippi has seen an average poverty rate of 21.4%, while Louisiana and New Mexico have seen an average poverty rate of 19.99% and 19.67% respectively. 

Between 2019 and 2020, Mississippi was one of the few states that saw a decrease in poverty, but despite the poverty rate dropping nearly 9%, Mississippi still saw the highest proportion out of all states at an average poverty rate of 17.5%. In 1988, Mississippi saw a poverty rate of 27.2%, the highest recorded in 40 years. 

State Average % poverty rate 1980-2020 Number of years ranked with the highest poverty rates
Mississippi 21.40% 22
Louisiana 19.99% 5
New Mexico 19.67% 8
District of Columbia 18.53% 3
Arkansas 18.02% 1
West Virginia 17.67% 1
Alabama 17.27% 0
Kentucky 16.70% 0
Texas 16.16% 0
Tennessee 16.11% 0

States with the lowest poverty rates over time 

At an average of 6.87%, New Hampshire is the state with the lowest average poverty rate between 1980-2020. Over the past 40 years, the state has experienced the lowest poverty rate for 27 non-consecutive years however, the state was hit significantly by the pandemic and saw the biggest percentage increase in poverty rates out of all other states. In 2019, New Hampshire saw a poverty rate of just 3.7%, in 2020, this rose by almost 68% to 6.2%. 

The state with the second lowest poverty rate is Connecticut at an average poverty rate of 8.55%, followed by New Jersey at 9.10%. 

The lowest poverty rate (3.7%) over the past 40 years has been recorded two times, both times in New Hampshire. The first time was in 1986 and the latest was in 2019. 

State Average % Poverty Rate 1980-2020 Number of years ranked with lowest poverty rate
New Hampshire 6.88% 27
Connecticut 8.55% 4
New Jersey 9.1% 0
Maryland 9.14% 1
Utah 9.59% 3
Minnesota 9.76% 0
Delaware 9.89% 1
Wisconsin 9.94% 1
Vermont 10.07% 1
Massachusetts 10.09% 1

Poverty rate over time

At 10.5%, 2019 saw the lowest poverty rate in the U.S. since records began. The highest ever poverty rate nationwide was back in 1959 when 22.4% of the population was living in poverty.

In 2020, the poverty rate saw its sharpest rise since the Great Recession, increasing by one percentage point. This is an increase of 8.57% compared to the previous year to 11.4%, bringing the total number of Americans living in poverty up by 3.3 million people to 37.2 million. 

Although the increase is substantial, it is not as large as the increase associated with the Great Recession where the poverty rate rose by 14.4% between 2007 and 2009. 

Year % of people in poverty (total in the U.S.)
2020 11.4%
2019 10.5%
2018 11.8%
2017 12.3%
2016 12.7%
2015 13.5%
2014 14.8%
2013 14.5%
2012 15%
2011 15%
2010 15.1%
2009 14.3%
2008 13.2%
2007 12.5%
2006 12.3%
2005 12.6%
2004 12.7%
2003 12.5%
2002 12.1%
2001 11.7%
2000 11.3%
1999 11.9%
1998 12.7%
1997 13.3%
1996 13.7%
1995 13.8%
1994 14.5%
1993 15.1%
1992 14.8%
1991 14.2%
1990 13.5%
1989 12.8%
1988 13%
1987 13.4%
1986 13.6%
1985 14%
1984 14.4%
1983 15.2%
1982 15%
1981 14%
1980 13%
1979 11.7%
1978 11.4%
1977 11.6%
1976 11.8%
1975 12.3%
1974 11.2%
1973 11.1%
1972 11.9%
1971 12.5%
1970 12.6%
1969 12.1%
1968 12.8%
1967 14.2%
1966 14.7%
1965 17.3%
1964 19%
1963 19.5%
1962 21%
1961 21.9%
1960 22.2%
1959 22.4%

Sources

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