An estimated 20 million Americans live in mobile homes, according to new Census figures. Mobile / manufactured homes have a huge image problem in the US, where in many minds they are shorthand for poverty. But how accurate is this perception?

According to the BBC article, comparing the top 10 mobile home states with the 10 most deprived states suggests a loose correlation. South Carolina is not among the 10 poorest by income, but there are eight states, all southern, that appear in both lists.

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“Not everyone who lives in a trailer park is poor,” says Charles Becker, a professor of economics at Duke University, and one of a handful of academics nationwide who has extensively studied the subject.

“And there are parts of the country, like Michigan, where living in a mobile home community doesn’t have the stigma it does in the south. You also have retirement communities in Florida where people aren’t poor at all.”

Mobile homes make up 6.4% of the US housing sector and there are 8.5m of them, down slightly on 2011, according to the US Census. The number of occupants is not recorded but it’s estimated to total about 20 million.

According to the Manufactured Housing Institute, about 57% of the heads of mobile home households are in full employment and another 23% are retired. But the household median income is only a little over half the national average.

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