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The Census Bureau reported recently that under an alternative method of calculating poverty, California has the highest rate in the nation, with nearly a quarter of its 38 million residents impoverished.

A big factor in that calculation is that living costs are higher in California than almost anywhere else in the nation and a big chunk of those costs is housing.

A new report from Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies confirms that, declaring that more than half of the state's renters devoted more than 30 percent of their household income to rent payments in 2011. California's rate, 56 percent, is higher than any other state except Florida.

The 31 percent of California renters who must shell out more than half of their income for housing is higher than all but two states, Florida and Michigan. And the median rent in California, $1,140 per month, is also among the highest.

The situation stems from sharply rising rents and stagnant incomes, the study found.

PHOTO: Tuscaro Apartments advertised a move-in special in 2009 and $250 bonuses for residents who referred new renters. The Sacramento Bee/Michael Allen Jones


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