National Poverty Statistics

Image of Measures of Poverty

Measures of Poverty
Poverty Thresholds and Guidelines


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

Image of Official Poverty Statistics

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. 

Image of Research Supplemental Poverty Measure

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.

Image of Experimental Poverty Measures

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. 

Image of A consumer’s guide to interpreting various U.S. poverty measures

A consumer’s guide to interpreting various U.S. poverty measures
David S. Johnson and Timothy M. Smeeding, Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty, Fast Focus No. 14-2012

Each year, the U.S. Census Bureau releases a number of public reports on the level of poverty in the previous year and trends in the level and composition of the poor from year to year. This issue of Fast Focus seeks to make sense of these various measures at the federal, state, and local levels.