Food Stamps

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The average national food stamps use is 151%, or one in seven Americans. However, not all states show the same food stamps use across the board, with some falling below or exceeding that figure. Obviously, the states where food stamps use is less than the national average shows good, balanced economic growth, and the opposite is true. But where is food stamps use the highest, and why?

5. Louisiana: 19.3%

This state is perpetually hit by hard knocks, whether it’s Hurricane Katrina or continually being named one of the poorest states in the country. The average household income in New Orleans is $36,681, with the state’s average household income coming in just a bit higher at $44,673; both are below the national average of $51,731.

In terms of population, Louisiana’s 4.6 million citizens is about 1.5% of the total American population, which means about 887,800 of its citizens are on food stamps. In terms of total numbers that’s not a lot, but almost one in five of Louisianans need help getting by. And it’s no wonder, too: take away $8,000 from the national household income, and a lot of people are left scrambling when it comes time to buy groceries.

4. New Mexico: 20.5%

It’s a pretty small state in terms of population (2.1 million) but CNBC ranks it as the sixth-poorest state in the whole country. Why? Its average household income is only $42,558 a year. It’s not terribly expensive to live in New Mexico, with median house prices hovering around $179,100 and far below the national median of $290,000. But it evidently still isn’t enough for the average New Mexican, with every one in five people you pass on the sidewalk getting government assistance.

3. Tennessee: 20.9%

As we return to the South, the percentage of people on food stamps increases. On the surface, it looks like a great state: it’s home to one of the richest music scenes in the whole country, possesses a great sports landscape, and offers the best of city and country life with a section of the Appalachian Trail resting comfortably inside. A closer look at the states reveals something quite different: a general unemployment rate of 8.4% with Memphis reaching double digits at 10.9% (for reference, the national unemployment rate is 6.3%), 30.6% of adults don’t have a high school diploma, and an average household income of $42,764 (seventh-poorest in the country).

2. Oregon: 21.1%

The Pacific Northwest isn’t typically the first region that comes to mind when thinking of high food stamps use, particularly in free-thinking Oregon. City planners have built up Portland and the surrounding area as a great place to live, work and visit, but could this be a façade for something worse? The numbers certainly don’t seem to point to anything in particular: only 10.8% haven’t gotten a high school diploma, average housing values ($246,100) are below the national average, and the median household income of $50,036 is just about the same as the national average. A possible answer is the wealthy-poor gap in Oregon is quite big, with top earners making so much, it balances out the rest of the numbers. A large pool of poor people would also explain why so many of the state’s citizens are on food stamps.

1. Mississippi: 22.3%

In terms of raw numbers, there’s not much good to say about Mississippi. It’s regularly ranked as the poorest state in the whole country, more people are on food stamps than have a bachelor’s degree, housing values are super low at an average of $100,200, and the average household income of $38,882 is well below the national average. Further, its unemployment rate of 7.6% marks it as sixth-worst in the country, and it’s also the third-least educated state. What can fix poor Mississippi? It’d take more than one answer and article to answer that, there are that many things.