About 67 million people across the U.S., or 23 percent of the population, lived in poverty areas over the last five years according to findings from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) released today.

Among states, the percentage ranged from 46 percent in Mississippi to 5 percent in New Hampshire. In 15 states and the District of Columbia, more than one-quarter of the population resided in poverty areas.

The findings are based on completed interviews with almost 2 million housing units each year from 2006 through 2010.

The ACS Survey’s applications have applications for understanding poverty and also contain data for wider range of topics.

“These estimates are ideal for public officials to use to make key decisions,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said. “School boards will find them helpful in forecasting demand for classroom space, teachers and workforce training programs, and they will be a tremendous asset to planners in identifying traffic concerns and building roads and transit systems to ease commutes. Local governments will also find them useful in forecasting needs for services such as police and fire protection.”

Using poverty rate estimates from the ACS, the Census Bureau analyzed demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of census tracts by categorizing the tracts into four categories based on their poverty rate levels. Census tracts with poverty rates of 20 percent or more are referred to as poverty areas.

The South had a larger proportion of people, 27.4 percent, living in poverty areas than any other region. The West had 21.6 percent, Midwest 19 percent, and Northeast 18.4 percent.

Among the states with the lowest percent of people residing in poverty areas, six states (Alaska, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wyoming) had less than 10 percent of the population living in such areas.