Sept. 13 (UPI) -- The poverty rate in California remains the highest in the nation, despite a small decline over the past year, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Wednesday.
California's poverty is an estimated 19 percent this year -- a 1.4 percent decline from 2017. That comes out to approximately 7.5 million people living in poverty in the Golden State.
The percentage is based on the supplemental poverty measure, which takes into accounts government programs to assist poor families. But despite California's many social programs, the state still has the highest poverty rate and experts say that a major reason is the high cost of housing.
"We do have a housing crisis in many parts of the state and our poverty rate is highest in Los Angeles County," Caroline Danielson, policy director at the Public Policy Institute of California, told The Sacramento Bee. "When you factor that in we struggle."
And wages are not rising fast enough to keep up with housing costs, according to Sara Kimberlin, senior policy analyst at the nonprofit California Budget and Policy Center.
"A really key reason why California's poverty rate is so high is that we have very high housing costs in many parts of the state," Kimberlin told Capital Public Radio. "And even in areas of the state where housing costs are not as high, many people struggle with high housing cost burden."
The high cost of living in Los Angeles is a major reason why the homeles rate has increased 75 percent over the past six years, the Los Angeles Times reported.
While high housing costs might be to blame for California's high poverty rate, several states in the top 10 have far lower costs of living, such as Louisiana (17.7 percent), Mississippi (15.9 percent) and New Mexico (15.2 percent).
Florida, where the cost of living in the Miami area is among the highest in the state, came in second with a 18.1 percent poverty rate.
A study last year found 45 percent of the population in Florida are working poor, with 6 out of 10 Miami residents struggling to get by.