How many people are poor?
What is the current poverty rate?


In 2012,  47 million people in the United States lived in poverty.

The nation’s official poverty rate was 15% in 2012.

Image of How many people are poor? This marked the second consecutive year that neither the official poverty rate nor the number of people in poverty were statistically different from the previous year’s estimates. 

U.S. Census Bureau. Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012 (News Release CB13-R-165). Issued September 17, 2013. Accessed 9/17/2013

DeNavas-Walt, Carmen, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Jessica C. Smith, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012 U.S. Census Bureau. Current Population Reports P60-245, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 2013.

Figure 4. Number in Poverty and Poverty Rate: 1959 to 2012 (PDF) Accessed 9/17/2013


Official Poverty Statistics
from the Current Population Survey

Image of Official Poverty Statistics


The official poverty statistics, which have been in use since the 1960s, calculate poverty status by comparing a family’s or an individual’s cash income to their poverty threshold. 


Poverty for States and Large Metropolitan Areas
Data from the American Community Survey

Image of Poverty for States and Large Metropolitan Areas


Using income and household relationship data from the American Community Surveys (ACS), the Census Bureau provides unofficial estimates of the number and percentage of people in poverty for sub-national levels of geography.


Research Supplemental Poverty Measure
An Alternative Measure of Poverty

Image of Research Supplemental Poverty Measure


In 2011, the Census Bureau issued a paper that laid groundwork for developing a new Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) for the United States. 

This paper illustrate differences between the official measure of poverty and a poverty measure that takes account of in-kind benefits received by families and nondiscretionary expenses that they must pay.