The Census Bureau determines the federal poverty threshold according to household size for the entire United States each year. For a household of four, the 2017 threshold is $24,600. According to the Census Bureau’s most recent Official Poverty Measure, California ranks 17th-highest, with a 15 percent poverty rate.
While the Official Poverty Measure is one way of determining how widespread poverty is at the state level, it is not the only method. Beginning with the 2010 U.S. Census, the Bureau introduced the Supplemental Poverty Measure. This measure takes into account variations in the cost of living between state to state, and is considered by some to be a more accurate measure of relative poverty levels than the Official Poverty Measure. In the most recent Supplemental Poverty Measure, California had the highest poverty rate at 20.6 percent.
This high rate can be partially attributed to California’s exceptionally high property values. California lawmakers have pointed to the state’s high ranking on the Supplemental Poverty Measure in order to assert that reducing poverty should be one of California’s top priorities.