Poverty by the Numbers

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The federal government has established two main poverty measures. The "poverty threshold" is the amount the US Census Bureau uses to count poor people. If a family or individual makes below the poverty threshold, they are considered poor. The amount is calculated using an old formula devised in the 1960s that has been long criticized by experts as outdated and too simplistic.

For more on how how the Census Bureau measures poverty, check out their nifty infographic.

The federal "poverty guidelines," are used to determine eligibility for many federal programs. Only two variables are used to determine whether a person or a family is in poverty – the number of members in their household and their total household income. It is updated every year.

Below are the poverty guidelines for the 48 contiguous states and D.C. for 2015:

Total Family Size Total Household Income
1 $11,770
2 $15,930
3 $20,090
4 $24,250
5 $28,410
6 $32,570
7 $36,730
8 $40,890
Add $4,160 for each additional
person over 8.

Researching Poverty in Your City, County, or State

If you would like to find more information about your city, county, or state, use the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey database. There you will find innumerable measures of poverty (and lots of other information, too).

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