Capitol Alert

California’s poverty rate remains nation’s highest

One in five Californians lives in poverty, the highest rate in the country, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The “Supplemental Poverty Measure,” factors in cost of living and shows a stubbornly high share of Golden State residents in poverty even as the national rate has dropped slightly.

Under the methodology, an estimated 20.4 percent of Californians lived below the poverty line in a three-year average of 2014, 2015 and 2016. That is virtually unchanged from the 20.6 percent average for 2013, 2014 and 2015, according to Tuesday’s release.

Nationwide, 14.7 percent of people lived in poverty under the supplemental measure during the latest three-year average. That is down slightly from 15.1 percent for the previous three years.

Experts said California’s higher supplemental rate reflects the impact of higher housing prices and other costs. “Californians are more likely to be poor than residents in any other state,” said Sara Kimberlin, senior policy analyst at the California Budget and Policy Center.

Under the official poverty measure, meanwhile, 14.5 percent of California residents live in poverty, down from 15 percent. That is 16th highest in the state and slightly above the 13.7 percent nationwide average in 2016.

A separate census release Tuesday showed that the percentage of California residents without health insurance dropped to 7.3 percent in 2016, down from 17.2 percent in 2013. That ranks 23rd nationwide, below the national average, but well above 2.5 percent uninsured rate for Massachusetts.

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