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Californias poverty ranks were cut by 1.49 million people in five years — a 17 percent decline topped by only three states.

New Census data shows California with 7.46 million living in poverty last year, according to the so-called “supplemental” poverty measure. Its a relatively new income yardstick that adjusts poverty counts to include regional costs of living as well as various entitlement payments.

Yes, no state had more people living in poverty, and yes, its an income-challenged flock thats only slightly less than what No. 2 Florida and No. 3 Texas had combined. But my trusty spreadsheet shows progress, too.

Californias high cost of living gets much of the blame for elevated poverty rates, but the states above-average concentration of low-wage industries doesnt help family budgets either. Do not overlook the states large population of immigrants, legal or otherwise. Nationally, foreign-born, non-citizens — legal or not — have double the poverty rate of native-born U.S. citizens.

Even with escalating housing costs, poverty is down. Last years California tally was cut by 493,000 from 2016 and is down 1.49 million from the post-recession high of five years earlier. No state cut more in 2017 or since 2012. Even on a percentage basis, the five-year decline was bested by only Nevada, Rhode Island, and Illinois.

Or look at the five-year drop on a national scale. Californias dip equals roughly one-third of all Americans who are no longer impoverished. In rest of the nation, poverty fell only by 6.3 percent — roughly only one-third the pace of Californias decline.

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And please note that poverty climbed in 14 states in these five years — North Dakota with the largest gain, up 30 percent, followed by Virginia, Wyoming, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Dakota, Alabama, Maryland, Kentucky, Iowa, Nebraska, Vermont, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

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You can give credit to Californias broad economic recovery from the Great Recession — creating a nation-leading number of new jobs — for the reduction in poverty. The states generous safety-net system certainly helped. Outmigration of lower-income residents to other states contributed to the poverty drop, too.

Fewer impoverished Californians along with a growing population lowered the states poverty rate, too.

Last year, the share of Californians in statistical poverty was 19 percent, by this supplemental math. Thats down from 20.4 percent in 2016 and 23.4 percent in 2012. Only three states had bigger five-year drops — Nevada, Rhode Island, and Colorado. Nationally, outside of California, 13.4 percent of the U.S. population was impoverished in 2017 vs. 14.9 percent five years earlier.

Still, while all the improvements are something to cheer, California was still in a statistical tie for the nations highest supplemental poverty rate for 2017 with Washington, D.C., and Florida.

Plenty of work is left to be done.

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