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California has highest poverty rate in the U.S., new Census Bureau report reveals

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A man named R.J. holds a piece of bread as he eats a free meal provided by St. Anthony foundation on September 16, 2010 in San Francisco, California. The U.S. poverty rate is higher than previously thought.

The US Census Bureau is testing a new way to measure poverty – and the new measurement indicates that California has the highest poverty rate in the nation.

Almost a quarter of Californians now live in poverty, according to the new Supplemental Poverty Measure, released Wednesday.

Under the new measure, California's poverty rate increases from 16.3 percent to 23.5 percent of the population. Not only is that the highest in the nation, but it represents the largest jump from the official rate. The increase is driven in part by California's high cost of living.

The numbers released by the Census Bureau are part of the newly developed measure, which was devised a year ago. It provides a fuller picture of poverty that the government believes can be used to assess safety-net programs by factoring in living expenses and taxpayer-provided benefits that the official formula leaves out. It looks at broader data, including housing costs, child care and medical expenses. It also adjusts for income earned from federal assistance, such as school lunch subsidies and the earned income tax credit.