What are the poverty thresholds today?
from the Census Bureau

Poverty thresholds are the income dollar amounts used by the U.S. Census Bureau solely as a statistical yardstick to determine a household’s poverty status. They are issued each year in September and are the basis for determining the national poverty rate.

The Census Bureau assigns each person or family in their sample of U.S. households one out of 48 possible poverty thresholds. Thresholds vary according to the size of the house and the ages of its members.

These thresholds do not vary from state to state, and they are updated annually for inflation using the Consumer Price Index U.S. City Average. 

What are the current poverty thresholds?

Some 2015 poverty thresholds were

  • $12,331 for a single individual under age 65
  • $14,326 a household of two people with a householder 65 years or older with no children
  • $24,036 for a family of four with two children under age 18

What are poverty guidelines?

The poverty guidelines are issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that determine whether an individual is eligible for federal safety net programs. The guidelines are a simplified version of the Census Bureau poverty thresholds, and are updated each year in January.

To determine who qualifies for government programs, agencies compare an individual’s household income before taxes, excluding the value of non-cash benefits, to a dollar amount guideline. Like the Census Bureau thresholds, guidelines vary according to the number of people in the household.

The poverty guidelines and the Census Bureau’s poverty thresholds differ in other ways. One set of poverty guidelines covers the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia, with additional separate guidelines for Alaska and Hawaii. Also, income levels in the poverty guidelines are based on the number of persons in a household without considering age.

Updated 9/7/16


For more information:

U.S. Census Bureau, 2016 (updated). ”How the Census Bureau Measures Poverty.”

U.S. Census Bureau. 2016. “Poverty Thresholds by Size of Family and Number of Children.” 

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2016. “Poverty Guidelines.”