Florida's Poverty Problem (2023)

Florida's Poverty Problem (1)

If you’re a Florida resident in a relatively wealthy area, you may be unaware of the extent that poverty reaches throughout the state. Florida is home to many wealthy and luxurious communities such as Windermere or Celebration. But outside this bubble of prosperity, it’s also home to many impoverished areas that suffer from a variety of problems.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate in Florida is 13.1%, higher than the national average of 11.6%. In cities like Tallahassee (24.3%), Miami (20.9%), Pahokee (35.2%), and Belle Glade (34.6%), this rate is even higher. The US’s poverty rate is determined by the percentage of people living below $35,801 a year. Although this may not be the most accurate measure of poverty as the cost of living varies in different areas, the areas mentioned also have higher rates of uninsured people with regard to healthcare, and often also have higher rates of disability.

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In rural areas, rent and homeownership costs are lower, making the poverty rate easier to handle, but still concerning. In cities like Miami, rent costs are higher than the national average, making it much harder to afford an apartment for those below the poverty line. Florida’s homelessness rate isn’t nearly as high as in places like New York or California, but it is still concerning nonetheless. Florida also has more empty homes than any other state, and the 6th highest empty housing rate (17.13%), according to a LendingTree study. The fact that there is more vacant housing than homeless people suggests that there’s more than just a shortage problem.

Florida's Poverty Problem (2)
Image from https://www.dreamstime.com/editorial-photo-streetscene-collins-ct-miami-beach-florida-street-scene-local-people-cars-waste-containers-court-south-district-usa-image66092411#

One reason why urban areas struggle with high housing costs is that renting companies and housing companies charge more for housing in areas with high demand. Popular tourist destinations create higher property values, raising prices. If you live in an area that attracts wealthy people, more luxury housing is built, while affordable housing is often thrown aside. This inequality is a significant part of why many people are priced out of owning a home.

Cities also experience more homelessness because they have more access to important amenities that many homeless people need to live, and some have looser encampment laws.

Anti-Homelessness Architecture: A Cruel And Futile Policy

There has been a trend in public policy which ignores the root causes of homelessness and simply tries to reduce its appearance - hostile architecture.

Florida's Poverty Problem (3)
Image found on https://www.re-thinkingthefuture.com/2020/12/19/a2564-15-examples-of-hostile-architecture-around-the-world/

These pieces of architecture serve to prevent the homeless from being able to sit down, sleep, or take shelter in various public areas. This makes it hard for homeless people to live their lives and only moves the problem of homelessness elsewhere.

Things like this are a clear waste of public effort - imagine if the money that went toward putting spikes under overpasses to make cities un-liveable went towards affordable housing initiatives and poverty reduction efforts? Sure, it wouldn’t solve homelessness overnight, but It would be a better budgetary choice than this. In addition, many of these structures are clear safety hazards that could genuinely injure people.

Videos like Prager U’s “What do we do about the homeless?”, suggesting to simply crack down on anti-encampment laws and criminalize homelessness perfectly encapsulate a certain culture around the homelessness issue that leaves a lot to be desired. It feeds into a bootstraps narrative suggesting that forcing homeless people into worse conditions and criminalizing their existence will motivate them to improve themselves. But you need resources to improve yourself. You cannot simply boost incentives to get better without actually helping people do so. Fixing a drug addiction or getting a job isn’t as easy as 1, 2, 3. Making it difficult for homeless people to live can reduce homelessness in certain counties, but this is likely only because the homeless simply move elsewhere.

Viewing homelessness as a personal responsibility issue ignores the ways in which people are systemically prevented from benefiting themselves. For one, poverty is a cycle. Those that lack resources and money end up spending more money on things like food because they lack the ability to buy in bulk, and many homeless people have no P.O. box or address to receive unemployment benefits. Poor hygiene and lack of housing is also a barrier to getting a job, as many employers refuse to hire someone who lacks the opportunity to take care of themselves. And mental health issues and substance abuse are common problems among the unhoused, and these issues can’t be solved without access to support groups and therapy. This is an obstacle because mental health care is extremely expensive.

Hunger in Florida - A Neglected Issue

You may be surprised to find out that in Florida, 1 in 9 people face hunger (this jumps to 1 in 6 children). These numbers are also higher in communities of color.

These numbers are slightly higher than the national average of slightly more than 1 in 10 people, making Florida the 3rd highest state behind California and Texas in terms of food insecurity.

Food insecurity can negatively impact people’s health and increase healthcare costs. It’s also not very fun to experience, and has serious impacts on your well-being, even if you aren’t acutely malnourished.

Despite all the charities aimed at solving this problem, Florida still struggles with tackling food insecurity. Although charity is well-intentioned and does help, it is not a systemic solution to widespread problems like food insecurity. Hunger is an economic mobility and resource allocation problem, and can’t be donated away.

Residents in Florida reportedly need about 1.2 billion per year to relieve their nutritional needs, according to Feeding America. This is a small fraction of the United States’ annual defense budget, which sits at about $800 billion currently. The U.S. government needs to take concrete action, past food stamps, to relieve hunger. Instead of increasing military spending to bolster the country’s fear of China and Russia and enriching arms contractors, funding needs to go towards eliminating food deserts and making foods more affordable.

To do this, the government can either subsidize new grocery stores in food deserts or simply build its own. A planned economy and rationing system could also help better allocate resources and provide basic needs, but this is difficult to verify as many planned economies with rationing are heavily sanctioned, like Cuba. Economic mismanagement is also a possibility under a planned economy, however, and the is is unlikely to ever be implemented within the current political climate of the United States. State-run grocery stores could help offset inflation by refusing to cooperate with companies that hike up their prices arbitrarily, like what occurred with the egg price inflation recently.

With regard to poverty and homelessness, there are a variety of things the United States can do to combat this:

  • Provide public housing. This not only gives people a basic standard of living but also drives down the market prices of apartments. An excellent example of public housing’s success is Vienna, one of the most affordable cities to live in due to its large amount of public housing.

  • Free universal education. One of the easiest ways to increase income and lift people out of poverty is by making it easier for people to get high-paying jobs. Using taxpayer money to fund free education benefits everyone and helps those who couldn’t previously afford to go to college. This helps increase economic opportunity since jobs requiring a bachelor's degree or higher pay a lot more.

  • Free healthcare. A universal healthcare program would allow people to get medical treatment and stay healthy and productive while avoiding enormous amounts of medical debt. Preventing medical debt makes it easier for people to save and invest their money in other things.

  • Free/affordable mental health services for those that can’t afford them. Like mentioned above, many homeless people struggle with mental health and substance abuse disorders. Taxpayer-funded mental health services could relieve many of suffering and help people get much-needed help in improving their lives and building healthier habits. This would help reduce homelessness and possibly lower crime (according to a University of Chicago study).

Isn’t all this super expensive? Will my taxes skyrocket? Yes, expansive social programs like these require tax revenue, but the burden on the average American can be relieved by closing tax loopholes that the wealthy use to pay near zero in taxes and create an even more progressive tax system. In addition, the United States military budget also costs us a lot of money, and cutting back the defense budget would leave a lot of money left over money over for social programs.

In addition, these programs would generate a lot of revenue in the long run, since lifting people out of poverty and making sure people are mentally well and can feed themselves is good for the economy. For starters, it allows people to be more productive at work by improving their mental and physical health. And creating higher income also means more consumer spending, which creates even more jobs.

What can I do to help?

It’s unlikely that Congress will ever solve this soon, especially since capitalism has a tendency to place the interests of the wealthy above the average citizen, and the government does not escape this tendency (lobbying and corporate donations, cough cough). But if we transform society to put pressure on politicians to listen to our demands, we can gradually put power back into our hands.

Socialist revolution? Maybe. But even just unionizing and organizing protests to fight for the working class can grant us some desperately needed relief. You can even join your local PSL or Freedom Socialist Organization party efforts.

Mutual Aid

Another way you can help fix systemic problems is by establishing communities of solidarity through mutual aid. This can involve a mutual exchange of services and helping out your neighbors and communities, both giving and receiving vital aid. Rather than simply charity, mutual aid is meant to strengthen human bonds in addition to improving your community. It is also a key component of anarchist philosophy and has strong historical links to communities of color.

Petitions & Charities

Another way to help solve community problems in Florida and around the globe is by donating to charity. Yes, you can’t donate away poverty. But it doesn’t hurt to support causes you care about. Even helping one person is still a good thing.

Charities to donate to:

Feeding America

National Alliance to End Homelessness

Bowery Residents Committee

Coalition for The Homeless

American Red Cross

Florida Coalition To End Homelessness

Central Florida Homelessness

Mental Health America

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Petitions are another way to make your voice heard. They aren’t nearly as effective as real-life organizing and protesting, but they can still garner attention.

Petitions to sign:

https://chng.it/cCbjNgqsjd - Massachusetts Affordable Housing

https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/florida-needs-affordable-housing-now?source=direct_link& - Stop Bill SB 1730, Florida Affordable Housing

https://chng.it/f9Jhh6h8Sy - Florida Affordable Housing

https://unitedtoendhomelessness.org/petition/ - Orange County End Homelessness

https://chng.it/6CJ6W8hBdb - Stop The Willow Project

https://chng.it/S6z78T2vKC - Revoke Criminalizing Homelessness Texas

Encouraging Media Literacy

I try to keep my writing as accurate and transparent as possible, as should all newsletters and agencies. But sometimes people have biases and mistakes that might distort information. As a reader, you should always ensure that the news you are reading is using reliable sources. A way to do this is to click on sourcing links provided by articles to view the original source. You may have to do this multiple times as newspapers often cite other articles rather than a primary source. In my newsletter, most underlined words are links.

Try to keep a critical eye when reading the news, especially corporate news giants or articles that don’t cite sources (some sources may simply include testimonies from interviewees). Research who funds the news you watch or read to examine its bias. Be just as skeptical of corporate media as you would a state-funded media source.

Here are some visuals outlining some of the owners of common news outlets (90% of media is owned by 6 companies).

Florida's Poverty Problem (4)
Florida's Poverty Problem (5)

For more information, check out this article for information on individual CEOs that own the media.

Thank you so much for reading World’s Eye! I appreciate you tuning in and supporting the newsletter. Please give feedback and share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and feel free to suggest future topics!

I am planning on turning World’s Eye into a cooperative newsletter. If you’d like to help, please email my substack account and I will consider adding you to the writing team. Eventually, I’ll figure out a way to get a shared payment model, maybe by moving platforms. Have a wonderful evening and don’t forget to subscribe!

World's Eye is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.


Does Florida have a poverty problem? ›

Poverty Impacts ALL Areas of a Child's Life

Nearly two in 10 (17%) of Florida children live below the federal poverty line, which means earning less than $26,500 per year for a family of four, ranking Florida as 35th among the other states.

What are the reasons for poverty in Florida? ›

Lack of employment opportunities. Inequities in education & workforce development. Unaffordable & unattainable housing. Insufficient transportation options.

What state has the worst poverty? ›

Poverty rates were highest in the states of Mississippi (19.58%), Louisiana (18.65%), New Mexico (18.55%), West Virginia (17.10%), Kentucky (16.61%), and Arkansas (16.08%), and they were lowest in the states of New Hampshire (7.42%), Maryland (9.02%), Utah (9.13%), Hawaii (9.26%), and Minnesota (9.33%).

What are some facts about poverty in Florida? ›

In 2021, about 13.1 percent of Florida's population lived below the poverty line.

Is Florida a good state to live in financially? ›

Additionally, Florida has a low state tax rate and a relatively low cost of living, making it a cost-effective place for retirees to live. In addition to its warm weather and affordable living expenses, Florida has a wealth of recreational activities and attractions that appeal to retirees.

Where does Florida rank for poverty level? ›

#StatePoverty Rate
47 more rows

What are the 5 poorest states in the US? ›

The ten poorest states in the US in terms of poverty rate are Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, West Virginia, Arkansas, Alabama, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Georgia, and South Carolina – as well as the District of Columbia.

What are the 10 poorest state? ›

These states and territories have the highest percentages of poverty in the country: Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arkansas, West Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, and Oklahoma.

What race is the poorest in the United States? ›

The US Census declared that in 2014 14.8% of the general population lived in poverty: As of 2010 about half of those living in poverty are non-Hispanic white (19.6 million). Non-Hispanic white children comprised 57% of all poor rural children.

Does Florida have low income? ›

Across Florida, there is a shortage of rental homes affordable and available to extremely low income households (ELI), whose incomes are at or below the poverty guideline or 30% of their area median income (AMI).

Is Florida a rich or poor state? ›

Florida is the bottom third of the wealthiest states.

If you look at the total gross domestic product, Florida is in the bottom third of the wealthiest states. However, in terms of net worth per capita or median household income, Florida is between those categories.

How many people in Florida are on welfare? ›

Welfare Recipients by State 2023
StateFood Stamps Recipients (2019)Recipients Per 100K (2019)
47 more rows

Where do poor people live in FL? ›

According to the data, Florida's poorest city is University! Located in Hillsborough County, this community is located right next to the University of South Florida in Tampa. Locals often call it "Suitcase City" since many people don't live there for long or are temporary residents.

Why does Florida have a low cost of living? ›

There is no state income tax, only federal taxes. There is an abundance of state parks, beautiful beaches and attractions to enjoy. Florida residents typically get a discount at most major parks! It's hot and sunny most of the time, making it the perfect destination for those who love the outdoors.

What is the biggest cause of poverty? ›

The United Nations Social Policy and Development Division identifies “inequalities in income distribution and access to productive resources, basic social services, opportunities” and more as a cause for poverty.

Is Florida becoming unaffordable? ›

Florida is becoming one of the most popular places to live. That's also making it more and more expensive. Inflation has hit Miami harder than any other metro area. Ultimately, it doesn't matter where you live; you're probably struggling to keep up with skyrocketing inflation, which hit a 40-year high last year.

Is Florida the most unaffordable state to live in? ›

Florida is one of the most expensive states for housing, and Miami is the least affordable city in the country, according to a report. High demand, short supply, increased migration trends since the pandemic and exploding mortgage rates, make for a pricey combination.

What is the safest state in Florida to live? ›

The Villages has the lowest county violent crime and property crime rate in Florida. What is the safest area to live in Florida? According to our research, the three safest cities in Florida are The Villages, Palm Coast, and Riverview.

What is the least developed state in the United States? ›


The Magnolia State is the poorest in the USA with a median household income of just $37,095.

What are the poorest counties in Florida? ›

DeSoto, a landlocked county in south central Florida, ranks as the poorest county in the state.
This Is the Poorest County in Florida.
Largest Place in CountyArcadia
Median Household Income$35,438
State Median Household Income$55,660
Poverty Rate26.8%
State Poverty Rate14.0%
41 more columns

What county has the highest poverty rate in Florida? ›

Although the overall poverty rate for persons in Florida was 12.5 percent, county rates ranged from a low of 6.8 percent in Clay County to a high of 26 percent in Hamilton County.

What is America's richest state? ›

New York is the richest state in the US, with a GDP per capita at $96,5k. This means that New York is responsible for around 9% of America's entire economic output, the highest percentage amongst the 50 states.

Which states are the worst economically? ›

GDP per capita also varied widely throughout the United States in 2021, with New York ($93,463), Massachusetts ($91,130), and Washington state ($86,265) recording the three highest GDP per capita figures in the U.S., while Mississippi ($42,411), Arkansas ($47,770), and West Virginia ($49,017) recorded the three lowest ...

Who is the poorest country on earth? ›

In the world, the poorest countries are mostly located in Africa and Asia, with Burundi being the poorest country followed by Somalia, Mozambique, Central African Republic, and Madagascar.

What is the most undeveloped state in America? ›

Mississippi. Mississippi is the poorest U.S. state, with 18.8% of its residents living in poverty. The state also has the highest child poverty rate, with 27.9% of its under-18 population meeting federal poverty guidelines.

What is the least wealthiest state? ›

The states with the highest median household income are Maryland, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. The states with the lowest median household income are Mississippi, West Virginia, and Arkansas.

Why is Mississippi so cheap? ›

Land availability, low rent prices and access to the Gulf and highways for shipping make Mississippi the least expensive place to live in the U.S., Cole said.

What percent of America is white? ›

As of July 1, 2022, United States Census Bureau estimates that 75.8% of the US population were white alone, while Non-Hispanic whites were 59.3% of the population.

Which country has zero poverty? ›

Iceland stands at the top of countries with the lowest poverty rates with a poverty rate of 4.9% in 2021.

Is Florida a livable state? ›

Florida is ranked the seventh best state to live in a study by Wallet Hub that compared the 50 states based on 52 key indicators of livability from housing costs and income growth to education rate and quality of hospitals.

What is the lowest income city in Florida? ›

Of the 592 towns in the state with available data, Gifford ranks as the poorest. The typical Gifford household earns just $22,353 a year, 63.8% less than the statewide median household income. Given the low incomes, it is not surprising that a larger than average share of residents live in poverty.

What is the rich section of Florida? ›

The richest city in Florida is Palm Beach. The median household income in Palm Beach is $169,500. It's also the Florida city with the most billionaires, with an estimated 30 billionaires living in Palm Beach as of 2022.

Are the rich moving to Florida? ›

More high-earners moved to Florida than to any other state between 2019 and 2020, per an analysis by SmartAsset of IRS data. It found that Florida saw a net influx of 20,263 households earning over $200,000 a year—nearly four times how many high-earners decamped to Texas, the second-most popular destination.

Is Florida cost of living high? ›

Average Cost of Living in Florida: $50,689 per year

Florida residents enjoy the 32nd-lowest cost of living in the United States, per MERIC data gathered in 2022.

How does Florida have so much money? ›

Sales and Excise Taxes

Florida primarily makes up for its lack of an income tax with its sales tax, which generates around 80% of the state's revenue. Florida's sales tax is imposed on services and goods, and both the state and county levy a certain percentage.

What income is considered poor in Florida? ›

2023 Federal Poverty Level (FPL) Income
Persons in Family/HouseholdGross Annual Household IncomeGross Monthly Household Income
5 more rows

Is Florida economically stable? ›

Florida's GDP has grown at an annualized rate of 2.2% over the five years to 2022. Moreover, Florida's trailing five-year GDP growth ranks it 7th out of all 50 US states.


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