Poverty can be understood in a simple way as not having enough income to afford adequate quantities of food, shelter and clothing. Poverty in the U.S. Census is estimated for the people who live in a particular area. It is determined for all people except institutionalized people, people in military group quarters, people in college dormitories, and unrelated individuals under 15 years old.
The U.S. Census determines poverty status by following the standards defined by the federal government. To read more about how the Census determines poverty status, please see their definition . The Census Bureau develops what income levels will be considered "poverty" based on factors such as family size, number of children, and the number of unrelated individuals in a household.
The poverty criteria are revised annually to allow for changes in the cost of living. Poverty criteria are the same for all parts of the country and are not adjusted for regional, state or local variations in the cost of living
It can be important to understand the poverty rate because it can help to explain the characteristics of a community and its needs. It can help to describe whether community residents are financially struggling or if they are financially stable. Poverty status can also provide insight into the number of residents who are eligible for certain types of public assistance or social services.
Every year the U.S. Census Bureau conducts the American Community Survey (ACS), which is a nationwide survey that collects and produces information on demographic, social, economic and housing characteristics about our nation's population. The U.S. Census Bureau contacts over 3.5 million households across the country each year to participate in the ACS. The sample is designed to ensure good geographic coverage in order to produce a good picture of the community's people and housing by surveying a representative sample of the population.
The data from the American Community Survey are made public through the U.S. Census Bureau website.
The following income sources are used to compute poverty status by the U.S. Census Bureau:
Non-cash benefits, such as food stamps and housing subsidies do not count. Capital gains and losses are excluded as well.
Click here to learn more about how the Census Bureau measures poverty: U.S. Census Bureau: How the Census Measures Poverty
Click here to learn more about how the poverty is calculated in the American Community Survey: U.S. Census Bureau: How Poverty is Calculated in the ACS
When using these data, please consider the following:
Please visit the U.S. Census Bureau's Question and Answer Center.