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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. 

If a family’s total income is less than the family’s threshold, then that family and every individual in it is considered in poverty.

The Census Bureau produces annual reports providing numbers and rates of people in poverty with select breakdown by demographic and socio-economic characteristics.

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Frequency and Timespan: Annual data available from 1959 to the present

Geographic Level of Coverage: National with some regional breakdowns

Publications and Tables are available online

Source:
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. (PDF)  Accessed 9/13/2013

FAQ

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

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There are two official measures of poverty: poverty guidelines and poverty thresholds.  Both of these measures are intended to identify the level of income necessary to meet basic needs and are updated annually.

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Research Supplemental Poverty Measure
An Alternative Measure of Poverty

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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.

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