What Are the Financial Criteria for Living Under the Poverty Line?


Quick Answer

As of 2015, the U.S. government classifies people with an income of less than $11,770 for a single person or $15,930 for a couple as living under the poverty line. Income classification for families of three, four and five in the United States is set at $20,090, $24,250 and $28,410, respectively. An additional $4,160 per person is added to the figure to calculate the poverty threshold for larger households.

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Full Answer

These figures are based on the Poverty Guidelines issued each year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and are for families living in the 48 contiguous United States and Washington, D.C. The figures for families in Hawaii and Alaska are slightly higher. These guidelines govern eligibility for a number of federal assistance programs, including Head Start, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the National School Lunch Program, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The original financial measure of federal poverty was established by the U.S. Census Bureau. The bureau still captures and updates this data yearly and makes it available for statistical purposes. According to the Census Bureau, in 2014, there were 46.7 million people living in poverty, making the official poverty rate 14.8 percent of the U.S. population.

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