Poverty Facts

The Population of Poverty USA

In 2012, 46.5 million people lived in Poverty USA. That’s means the poverty rate for 2012 was 15%.

The 2012 poverty rate was 2.5 percentage points higher than in 2007, the year before the 2008 recession.

The number of people living in poverty in 2012 (46.5 million) is the largest number seen in the 54 years for which poverty estimates have been published.

Source: Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012, US Census Bureau

Who lives in Poverty USA?

All those who make less than the Federal government’s official poverty threshold. . . which for a family of four is $23,850.00. People working at minimum wage, even holding down several jobs. Seniors living on fixed incomes. Wage earners suddenly out of work. Millions of families everywhere from our cities to rural communities.

Poverty does not strike all demographics equally. For example, in 2012, 13.6% of men lived in Poverty USA, but 16.3% of women. Along the same lines, the poverty rate for married couples in 2012 was only 6.3%–but the poverty rate for single-parent families with no wife present was up to 16.4%, and for single-parent families with no husband present over 30%.

And though poverty is often perceived as a problem of urban environments and inner cities, the poverty rate in metropolitan areas (14.5%) is actually lower than the poverty rate in rural areas (17.7%).

In 2012, the poverty rate for people living with a disability was 28.4%. That’s 4.3 million people living with a disability—in poverty.

To learn about poverty rates by state and county, and detailed poverty rates for varying demographics, visit the Interactive Poverty Map.

Sources: Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012, US Census Bureau; Current Statistics on the Prevalence and Characteristics of People Experiencing Homelessness in the United States, updated July 2011, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Children in Poverty USA

In 2012, 21.8% of all children lived in Poverty USA—that’s over 1 in every 5 children.

In 2012, the National Center on Family Homelessness analyzed state-level data and found that nationwide, 1.6 million children experience homelessness in a year.

Luckily, there are programs that help. The National School Lunch Program provides low- or no-cost meals to impoverished children. In 2012 alone, the program served subsidized lunches to more than 31.6 million children–and has served 224 billion lunches since its founding in 1946.

View the Interactive Poverty Map to find out what the child poverty rate is in your state, or states around you.

Sources: Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012, US Census Bureau; NCFH 1999

Seniors in Poverty USA

Though the official census data gives seniors a 2012 poverty rate of only 9.1%, the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which accounts for expenses such as the rising costs of health care, raises the senior poverty rate to an astounding 14.8%.

View the Interactive Poverty Map to find out what the senior poverty rate is in your state, or states around you.

Sources: Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012, US Census Bureau; The Research Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2012, US Census Bureau

Poverty by Ethnicity

According to 2012 US Census Data, the highest poverty rate by race is found among Blacks (27.2%), with Hispanics (of any race) having the second highest poverty rate (25.6%). Whites had a poverty rate of 9.7%, while Asians had a poverty rate at 11.7%.

Source: Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012, US Census Bureau

The Economics of Poverty

Poverty Thresholds

Poverty thresholds are determined by the US government, and vary according to the size of a family, and ages of the members. In 2013, the poverty threshold—known more commonly as the poverty line—for an individual was $11,670. For two people, the weighted average threshold was $15,730.

Three people: $19,790
Four people: $23,850
Five people: $27,910
Six people: $31,970
Seven people: $36,030
Eight people: $40,090

For households with more than 8 people, add $4,060 for each additional person.

For more details about poverty thresholds, visit the US Census Bureau. Poverty thresholds are intended for use as a statistical yardstick, not a complete description of what people and/or families actually need to live.

What’s worse, 6.6% of the population—or nearly 20.4 million people—live in deep poverty, with incomes at only 50% of their poverty thresholds.

And 34.2% of the population—or 106.4 million—live close to poverty, with incomes less than two times that of their poverty thresholds.

To learn more about poverty thresholds and what it is like to live at the poverty line, take a tour of Poverty USA.

Sources: How the US Census Measures Poverty, US Census Bureau; Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012, US Census Bureau

Employment

Before 2012, the real median household income in the USA had declined for four consecutive years. In 2012, the median income for family households was $64.053, while the median income for nonfamily households was $30,880.

In 2012, an estimated 71.7% of men with earnings and 59.4% of women with earnings worked full time, year round. However, in 2012, the earnings of women who worked full time, year-round were only 77% of that for men working full time, year-round.

Source: Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012, US Census Bureau

Food Insecurity

In 2012, the USDA estimated that 14.5% (or 17.6 million) of US households were food insecure—meaning that they had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. Rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average for households with incomes near or below the Federal poverty line.

Again, there are programs that help. 59% of food-insecure households in the survey reported that in the previous month, they had participated in one or more of the three largest Federal food and nutrition assistance programs, such as SNAP (food stamps). Learn more about SNAP and other important programs in the Policies that Help section.

Source: Household Food Security in the United States in 2012, USDA