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Editorial: Poverty and the minimum wage hike

According to revised figures released by the United States Census Bureau late last year, California has the highest poverty rate of any state in the country.

That rate is 23.5 percent, higher even than the District of Columbia (at 23.2 percent) and well ahead of second-place Florida (19.5 percent).

And according to an American Community Survey, three California metropolitan areas – Fresno, Modesto and Bakersfield-Delano – rank among the top five regions in the country with the highest percentage of residents living below the poverty line. Hard to believe, perhaps, but the Fresno area is the second most impoverished site in the nation, just behind the U.S.-Mexico border area of McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas. Bakersfield-Delano and Modesto ranked fourth and fifth. The 2011 data compared large metro areas of 500,000 people or more.

The revised poverty figures now measure more than just the cost of food, and place poverty in the context of living costs, including housing, which is particularly expensive in California.

And lest we mistakenly assume that Fresno has to be an isolated pocket of poverty, it’s important to remember that the Redwood Empire Food Bank, which serves Sonoma County, is now feeding 78,000 people a month in what is considered to be one of the more affluent and recession-proof regions of California.

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