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Hawaii’s low poverty rate deceptive, advocates say


Hawaii’s poverty rate is better than most other states in the nation, according to new Census data.

But advocates for the poor say that when the state’s high cost of living is considered, the picture looks a lot different.

Nearly 11 percent of Hawaii’s population lived in poverty in 2013, down slightly from nearly 12 percent in 2012.

Factoring in Hawaii’s high cost of living leaves Hawaii closer to the bottom in nationwide rankings, said Gavin Thornton, deputy director of Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice 

“There are different ways of evaluating the poverty level, and under one standard we come out looking surprisingly good, and under another standard, we come out looking the way most people who live here think is appropriate,” Thornton said.

Nationwide the poverty remained flat at around 16 percent in 2013.

Only four other states — Alaska, Connecticut, Maryland and New Hampshire — had smaller percentages of their populations living in poverty.

The median household income for Hawaii was $68,020 in 2013, up from $67,053 in 2012. That’s higher than the national average of $52,250.

“Since we have the highest cost of living in the nation — nearly 160 percent of the national average — our median income levels would need to be significantly higher to counteract those costs,” Thornton said.

Only three states had higher median incomes than Hawaii.

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