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California still has - by a huge margin - the highest poverty rate of any state under an alternative Census Bureau calculation that includes the cost of living.

The Census Bureau report, issued Wednesday, says that nearly a quarter of California's 38 million residents live in poverty by the alternative method - almost 9 million - and the state's 23.8 percent rate is approached only by Washington, D.C.'s 22.7 percent.

Among other states, the second highest alternative poverty rate is found in Nevada at 19.8 percent while the lowest rates are found in Iowa (8.6 percent) and Wyoming (9.2 percent). Nationally, the alternative rate is 16 percent.

California's official poverty rate is 16.5 percent and while higher than the national official rate of 15.1 percent, it is surpassed by those of many other states.

The official rate is based on half-century-old criteria that have been criticized as being obsolete, leading the Census Bureau to develop the alternative method that uses broader indices, including the cost of living. The official rate assumes, in essence, that the cost of living is the same nationwide.

California scored the highest rate during the Census Bureau's first report on the alternative method and continues with that dubious title. A few weeks ago, the Public Policy Institute of California released a report using methodology similar to the Census Bureau's alternative and came up with similar results.

The official rate is used for a wide variety of federal and state programs. Were the alternative method to become the official one, there would be huge upheavals in those programs, possibly meaning a big jump in federal aid to California.

PHOTO: Kazoo Yang, 31, spent most of the day packing up her possessions as Sacramento police officers evict 150 homeless people from an illegal campground along the American River. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo



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