Patterns of Poverty
from the Survey of Income and Program Participation


The Census Bureau publishes recurring reports on patterns of poverty. Because these reports are based on data collected in the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), they are not directly comparable to official poverty statistics drawn from the Current Population Survey (CPS).

Because of the way SIPP is designed it can provide information on issues such as the duration of poverty spells, the frequency of transitions into and out of poverty and how poverty dynamics very across demographic groups.


Frequency and Timespan: Irregular reports with multi-year averages, annual and some monthly data for 1984-1984 to the present


Geographic Level of Coverage: National


Publications available online


Edwards, Ashley N., Dynamics of Economic Well-being: Poverty, 2009-2011 (PDF) Current Population Reports, P70-137, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, 2014. Accessed 7/9/2014

What do we know about poverty spells?
Research from the Center for Poverty Research and the Census Bureau

The official poverty statistics do not track individuals or households over time so there are no official data on poverty spells.

Despite the lack of official data, other surveys do provide the ability to track poverty status over time. Two recent studies have used differing data sources and methods to provide some insight into the characteristics of poverty spells.

Census Bureau Study