Learn More: Poverty

What does this mean?

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 Clicking on this link will result in leaving the Community Atlas website.. The Census Bureau develops what income levels Clicking on this link will result in leaving the Community Atlas website. 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

Definitions from:

Why is it important?

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.

How are the data collected (methods)?

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 Clicking on this link will result in leaving the Community Atlas website. website.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey Clicking on this link will result in leaving the Community Atlas website.

The following income sources are used to compute poverty status by the U.S. Census Bureau:

  • Wage or salary income, unemployment compensation, workers' compensation, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, public assistance, veterans' payments, survivor benefits, pension or retirement income, interest, dividends, rents, royalties, income from estates, trusts, educational assistance, alimony, child support, assistance from outside the household, and other miscellaneous sources.

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 Clicking on this link will result in leaving the Community Atlas website.

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 Clicking on this link will result in leaving the Community Atlas website.

Caveats and Limitations

When using these data, please consider the following:

  • The data presented are from the American Community Survey, which represents an estimate of the characteristics of the entire nation, based on the sampling of individuals selected to take the survey. Because it is an estimate, there might be disagreement over the methods used by the U.S. Census Bureau to calculate that estimate.
  • We chose to use the 5-year estimates for 2007-2011 to include on this component of the Community Atlas because it is most appropriate for smaller geographic areas such as neighborhoods. The single year estimates are more current, but it is often less reliable and not recommended for use when analyzing such small populations. If you choose to use this data, please keep in mind that it is an estimate.
  • The data has been reapportioned from the original boundaries provided to us in order to develop estimates for neighborhoods and communities. This has been done because not all data is reported for the same boundaries as the neighborhoods and communities on the Community Atlas. When using these data, view them as estimates for these neighborhoods and communities.

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