What are the poverty thresholds today?
from the Census Bureau

U.S. Census Bureau headquarters in Maryland.

Poverty thresholds are the dollar amounts used by the U.S. Census Bureau to determine poverty status. The most recent thresholds issued are for 2014.

Each person or family is assigned one out of 48 possible poverty thresholds. Thresholds vary according to the size of the family and the ages of the members, and they are updated annually for inflation using the Consumer Price Index U.S. City Average. 

Some 2014 poverty thresholds were

  • $12,316 for a single individual under age 65
  • $14,309 a household of two people with a householder 65 years or older
  • $24,008 for a family of four with two children under age 18

U.S. Census Bureau, How the Census Bureau Measures Poverty,  (HTML) Accessed 7/9/2013
U.S. Census Bureau, Poverty Thresholds by Size of Family and Number of Children (XLS) Accessed 9/16/2015

By 2010, the Census Bureau employed optical scanners and computer software were used to convert handwritten questionnaires into electronic data. Photo courtesy U.S. Census Bureau.

How is poverty measured in the United States?
Thresholds, guidelines and other estimates

There are two official measures of poverty created by the U.S. Census Bureau. The poverty guidelines and poverty thresholds are both measures that are intended to identify the level of income necessary to meet basic needs. Both are updated annually.

Official Poverty Statistics
from the Current Population Survey


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. 

Research Supplemental Poverty Measure
An Alternative Measure of Poverty


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.