Finding Poverty Statistics


Poverty Statistics

Image of Poverty Statistics

Government agencies and others maintain a wealth of statistics and data related to poverty. These links are a good place to start for essential information on poverty measures at the national, state, and local level, along with other fundamental measures relating to poverty in the United States.


National Poverty Statistics

Measures of Poverty
Poverty Thresholds and Guidelines

There are two official measures of poverty issued annually by the federal government:

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.

Experimental Poverty Measures
Other Alternative Measures from the Census Bureau


Prior to the publication of the Research Supplemental Poverty Measure in 2011,  the Census Bureau conducted a variety of studies looking at how income distribution changes when the definition of income is varied to include or exclude different components. 


State and Local Poverty Estimates

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


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.

Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE)
Model-based Small Area Income & Poverty Estimates for School Districts, Counties, and States


The U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) program provides annual estimates of income and poverty statistics for all school districts, counties, and states.

Areas with Concentrated Poverty
ACS and Other Sources


Areas of Concentrated Poverty (ACS)

These Census Bureau report analyzes demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of census tracts by categorizing the tracts based on their poverty levels. Tracts with poverty rates of 20% or more are considered “poverty areas”.  Recent reports draw data from the America Community Survey and older data come the the Census long form.


Participation in Government Programs
Who Gets Assistance?

The Census Bureau produces a series of reports, Dynamics of Economic Well-being based on data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation.

A Profile of the Working Poor
from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

The BLS produces an annual report on the working poor. 

The working poor are defined as persons who, during the year, spent 27 weeks or more in the labor force (working or looking for work), but whose incomes still fell below the official poverty level.