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The Poorest States in America

One Nation Under the Poverty Line


The United States is quickly descending into poverty.

In total, 42.9 million Americans (14.3% of the country) lived below the poverty line in 2009, an increase of 3.5 million from the year before, according to data released in September by the U.S. Census Bureau. By comparison, there were 37.3 million Americans living below the poverty level in 2007, prior to the worst part of the recession.

During that time, the federal poverty level has remained fairly constant. In 2008, the poverty line for family of four was $21,200 and in 2009, it was $22,050.

In fact, the Census Bureau found that the number of residents living below the poverty line increased in 31 states across the country last year, but did not decline significantly in any of the 50 states. It’s a grim picture to say the least.

We rounded up the 10 states that have the most people living in poverty, by percentage of the total population, as well as Census data showing how many more people have fallen into poverty during the last year in each of these states.The numbers are based on annual surveys of households across the country conducted by the Census Bureau, adjusted each year for changes in the cost of living, as reflected in the Consumer Price Index.

Photo Credit: Adrian Miles

10th Poorest State: South Carolina


Total residents living in poverty in 2009: 753,739 (17.1% of population)

Increase from previous year: 72,608 residents

Photo Credit: Shoshanah

9th Poorest State: Texas


Total residents living in poverty in 2009: 4,150,242 (17.2% of population)

Increase from previous year: 358,673 residents

Photo Credit: Paul Garland

8th Poorest State: Louisiana


Total residents living in poverty in 2009: 755,460 (17.3% of population)

Increase from previous year: 7,050 residents

Photo Credit: The Pug Father

7th Poorest State: Alabama


Total residents living in poverty in 2009: 804,683 (17.5% of population)

Increase from previous year: 93,478 residents

Photo Credit: Southernpixel

6th Poorest State: West Virginia


Total residents living in poverty in 2009: 313,419 (17.7% of population)

Increase from previous year: 11,889 residents

Photo Credit: bradwicklund

5th Poorest State: New Mexico


Total residents living in poverty in 2009: 353,594 (18% of population)

Increase from previous year: 21,145 residents

Photo Credit: a4gpa

4th Poorest State: Washington D.C.


Total residents living in poverty in 2009: 104,901 (18.4% of population)

Increase from previous year: 6,231 residents

Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon

3rd Poorest State: Kentucky


Total residents living in poverty in 2009: 777,295 (18.6% of population)

Increase from previous year: 59,203 residents

Photo Credit: jeremiah.andrick

2nd Poorest States: Arkansas


Total residents living in poverty in 2009: 527,378 (18.8% of population)

Increase from previous year: 46,257 residents

Photo Credit: StuSeeger

The Poorest State in America: Mississippi


Total residents living in poverty in 2009: 624,360 (21.9% of population)

Increase from previous year: 18,157 residents

Photo Credit: rususeruru

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