The latest data from the US Census Bureau reveals significant disparities in poverty rates across American states, with a clear divide between Republican-led and Democratic-led regions.
The figures for 2022 indicate that six out of the ten states with the highest poverty rates had Republican governors, while two others had Republican-controlled legislatures.
2022 Census Data Highlights Poverty Disparities Between Republican and Democratic-Led States
Mississippi, under the leadership of Republican Governor Tate Reeves, claimed the unenviable top spot for the highest poverty rate in 2022.
Despite a marginal decline, the state’s official poverty rate remained alarmingly high at 19.2 percent. In contrast, Louisiana, governed by Democrat John Bel Edwards, saw a more significant drop, with its poverty rate falling to 18.6 percent.
Red West Virginia and blue New Mexico swapped positions to complete the top four states with the highest poverty rates. Republican-run Arkansas followed, with Kentucky, a state with a Democratic governor and a Republican legislature similar to Louisiana, coming next.
Red states Alabama, and Oklahoma rounded out the top eight. At the same time, Democratic-led New York saw a concerning rise to ninth place.
It reported a poverty rate of 14.3 percent in 2022, up from 13th place the previous year. Republican-controlled Texas maintained the tenth position.
While disparities in poverty rates were apparent among states, the national poverty rate, based on pre-tax income adjusted for inflation, remained relatively stable at 11.5 percent in 2022.
However, a newly introduced metric called the supplemental rate, which considers factors like government benefits and housing costs, surged to 12.2 percent in 2022 from 7.8 percent in the previous year.
This spike in the supplemental rate was attributed by some analysts to the expiration of increased government benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the failure to support the expansion of child tax credit payments.
In 2022, two Democratic Senators joined all 49 Republican Senators to block the development, leading to a substantial rise in the supplemental poverty rate.
Calls for Policy Action
The Center for American Progress, a liberal public policy research and advocacy organization, urged policymakers to expand the child tax credit and enhance other benefits like food aid while raising the minimum wage.
They stressed that swift action could improve the lives of millions of families and reduce poverty across all communities.
On the other hand, some experts pointed to the impact of inflation on household incomes. Real median household income dropped by 2.3 percent from $76,330 in 2021 to $74,580 in 2022, with inflation surging by 7.8 percent. The income poverty threshold for a family of four in 2022 stood at $29,678.
States like Texas and Florida, which reported poverty rates of 12.7 percent in 2022, not far behind the top-ranking Mississippi, have significantly reduced the number of Medicaid and food aid recipients over the past year.
Despite these cuts, uninsured Americans decreased from 27.2 million in 2021 to 25.9 million in 2022.
This was partly attributed to the accessibility of relatively affordable insurance plans through Healthcare.gov, a tool of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).