‘If you were to ask most Americans which is the poorest state in the nation, they might say Alabama or Mississippi, with their low average incomes and concentrations of African-American poverty. In fact, the state with the largest share of people in poverty is California. As the most populous state, it also has by far the largest number of poor people, 7.4m. Latinos are somewhat more likely to be poor than average. But a better predictor of poverty is lack of a university education: 35% of those with only a high-school diploma are poor. Poverty is not a result of economic decline or lack of jobs. California’s GDP rose 78% in real terms in the two decades to 2017, overtaking Britain to become the world’s fifth-largest economy. The number of people with jobs has grown almost without interruption since 2011. In September unemployment stood at just 4.1%. But the gains from growth have been distributed unequally. According to the Urban Institute, a think-tank, the incomes of the poorest Californians fell in real terms between 1963 and 2017. In 1963 a family nine-tenths up the income scale earned 6.5 times as much as a family one-tenths of the way up. By 2017 it was earning 14 times more. The rich have done better than the poor in America as a whole, but not by this much, (‘Amid plenty, want,’ The Economist 27th Oct 2018, p37-8).


‘Amid plenty, want’, The Economist 27 Oct 2018, p37-8.