Poverty status

To determine the poverty status of families and individuals, the Census Bureau uses the federal government's definition of poverty. Poverty was originally defined by the Social Security Administration, revised by two interagency committees and approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as the official poverty measure for federal agencies in their statistical work (see OMB's "Directive 14"). Poverty status is determined by comparing the cost of food for a given family size with total family income. Since the cost of food varies depending on family size and composition, poverty thresholds also vary by family size. Poverty status is defined for families and unrelated individuals but not households. For example, a family of five with a family income of $20,127 or less has poverty status. A household of five – or two, or 11 – people who are not related would have poverty status only as individuals. Thresholds are revised annually to allow for variations in the cost of living.

For the 2000 census, poverty thresholds were as follows:

Family Size

Poverty Threshold

1 person


2 people


3 people


4 people


5 people


6 people


7 people


8 people


9 people or more


For more information see the Census Bureau's Technical Appendix B at http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2000/doc/sf3.pdf

Last updated Sep 27, 2011



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