How does family structure relate to poverty?
Official data breakdown


In 2014, the overall poverty rate was 15%.  Approximately 12% of all families in the United States were in poverty.  Poverty rates by type of family ranged from 6% to 31%.

The poverty rates by type of family were:

  • 6% of married couple families were poor
  • 16% of families with male householder, no wife present were poor
  • 31% of families with a female householder, no husband present were poor

Another way to think about the relationship between poverty and family structure is to look at how the distribution of families in poverty by type compares to that of the population as a whole.

By that measure, in 2014 the single parent households (both male and female householder, no spouse present) comprised a greater share of families in poverty than their share of the general population and married couple families are underrepresented.

DeNavas-Walt, Carmen and Bernadette D. Proctor, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2014 U.S. Census Bureau. Current Population Reports P60-252, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 2015. (PDF) Accessed 10/19/2015

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.