What Does ‘Poverty’ Really Mean?

When we talk about the poverty rate or families living in poverty, what definition are we using for “poverty?”

That depends on which government agency is providing the measure.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s measure is the “poverty threshold.” It is updated annually and is based on household size, number of children and age of household residents, but it does not vary by geographic location. For instance, one person who makes less than $11,139 a year is in poverty; for a family of four, it’s $22,314. The Census Bureau’s thresholds are primarily for statistical purposes.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has its own measure, called the “poverty guidelines.” Also updated every year and based on household size, the HHS guidelines vary by geographic location and are primarily used by agencies to assess eligibility for federal programs, such as Medicare, Head Start and the National School Lunch Program. For the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia, the poverty guideline for one person is $10,830, and for a family of four, it is $22,050.

Read the Census Bureau’s 2010 report Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States below and join the discussion.

  • Ray Ourand

    Poverty in the USA is a national scandal, a national shame. Why is it that we can find enough money to run two wars in Asia, build the world’s largest embassy in Iraq and pour billions into rebuilding what our bombs destroyed, but we can’t find the money to raise our own citizens up from the hopelessness of poverty. We have to rethink our priorities in the USA and do something about this national disgrace!

  • sam

    I feel you homee but they spending 1 trillion over about 10 years on a way which brings money back to the states by the way compared to 30 trillion in 10 years on stuff here. An embassy don’t cost that much. I volunteer with 2 different orgs and volunteered with 5 others and its really easy for just one city org to spend 1 million for a couple thousand people. Maybe a thousand. So in other words it will take way more than 1 trillion over 10 years to solve any issue considering the spend 3 trillion every year on the year for current issues

  • Darien

    if your single and make 1600.00 a month gross you are in poverty; and that is not a matter of perspective, it is a matter of fact.

  • marvin Krazy Crawford

    even if therewere a five step plan to erase poverty it would not help because we often “know what TO DO, but we wont DO what we know
    Marvin K Crawford

  • JAzzie

    it is terrible what these people have to go through. ray is right we spend a fortune on war but we cant afford to help people who are going into poverty. that is ridiculous and unexeptable someone should be able to help…

Last modified: March 5, 2012 at 8:10 pm