What Are the Poverty Guidelines in the US?


Quick Answer

The United States Department of Health and Human Services publishes annual poverty guidelines based on income that serve as the formal federal definition of poverty. The numbers vary by state and family size, but any single person earning $11,770 or less per year is considered impoverished as of 2015.

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Full Answer

The $11,770 number is for a single person residing in the 48 states or in Washington, D.C. A single resident of Hawaii is considered impoverished with an income of $13,550 or less, and the threshold for Alaska is $14,720. In the lower 48 states, $4,160 can be added for each additional member of the household. In Hawaii this amount is $4,780 and in Alaska it is $5,200. These numbers are used by the federal government to determine eligibility in some relief programs.

Another measure of poverty in the United States is the census. The Census Bureau uses a different system to measure poverty that it calls the "poverty thresholds." The income standards are similar, but the census numbers are only used for general statistics about how much of the country is living in poverty. An unofficial alternative model that attempts to address deficiencies in the federal model is the Supplemental Poverty Measure developed by the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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