Poverty
 
Estimated Number of Printed Pages: 8
 
TOPICS COVERED: In Poverty In The US, we describe what kinds of families are effected by poverty – by family type and race – and give you information about just what poverty means – economically and in (not) getting by. For further information relating the economic status of a particular ethnic group or demographic segment of the U.S. population, go to the related pages for those specific groups. In Poverty – International, we offer a glimpse into poverty in a few other of the "more developed" nations. Obviously, the experience of a poor family in the U.S. or Europe is vastly different from family life in a less developed nation. And we can't adequately express those differences in just a page or two. We think it's better to suggest your going to organizations such as the World Bank (www.worldbank.org) and the United Nations (www.un.org) for that information, than for us just to give you an inherently incomplete picture.
 
MEMOS ON RELATED INFORMATION: American Dream, Keeping Up With the Joneses, Housing (regarding housing problems and costs), Ozzie and Harriet Land, Population, Single Parents (for information about poverty in single parent families), Children At Risk (for information about child poverty), Aging.
 
Links to Sources for this material are available below. Please also see The Factbook Sources page for further information regarding Factbook sources and their availability.
 

PAGE INDEX:

 

POVERTY IN THE U.S.

POVERTY – INTERNATIONAL

 
 

POVERTY IN THE U.S.

 
 
 
12.7 percent
The U.S. official poverty rate in 2004. The rate has increased for four consecutive years, most recently from 12.5 percent in 2003. 1.
 
 
 
37.0 million
Number of people in the U.S. in 2004 who were in poverty – an increase of 1.1 million from 2003. 2.
 
 
 
7.9 million
U.S. families – 10.2 percent of all families – are in poverty. 3.
 
 
 
55 percent
of American families going to food pantries have children in their family. 4.
 
 
 
The poverty threshold is –
an amount of total income for a household where any household earning less than that amount is considered to be in poverty. 5.
 
 
 
The poverty threshold is scaled by the size of a family –
So, for example, a family of four adults (aged 18 or over) with a combined household income of less than $19,307 is considered in poverty. If it's a family of four, but two of them are kids, then the threshold goes down slightly – to $19,157. A single person's poverty threshold is $9,827. 6.
 
 
 
And the poverty threshold is a maximum –
those in poverty usually earn far less than the threshold. In fact, on the average, a poor American family makes about $7,775 less than the amount of their poverty threshold. 7.
 
 
 
15.6 million
Number of people in the U.S. whose income less than half of their respective poverty thresholds. These very poor are 5.4 percent of the total population and 42.3 percent of the poverty population. 8.
 
 
 
4.4 percent
of American families make less than 50 percent of the income at the poverty threshold. 9.
 
 
 
Over $28,000
The annual cost for basic needs for an American family of four, according to the Children's Defense Fund. An amount almost $9,000 higher than the poverty threshold. 10.
 
 
 
An average of just 34 percent
of a family's basic costs of living are covered by a full-time minimum wage job, according to a survey of 10 U.S. communities. 11.
 
 
 
Nowhere –
A full-time minimum-wage wasn't enough for a family to make ends meet in any of 10 U.S. communities surveyed. 12.
 
 
 
28.4 percent
of all American families with a female householder and no husband present are below the poverty line. 13.
 
 
 
13.5 percent
of all American families with a male householder and no wife present are below the poverty line. 14.
 
 
 
5.5 percent
of all American married-couple families are below the poverty line. 15.
 
 
 
3.2 million
married-couple families in the U.S. – 5.5 percent – are in poverty. 16.
 
 
 
4.0 million
Number of households in the U.S. with a female-householder and no-husband present families in the U.S. that are in poverty. 17.
 
 
 
658,000
Number of households in the U.S. with a male-householder and no-wife present families in the U.S. that are in poverty. 18.
 
 
 
21.1 percent
of California’s working families with children in 2002 were low-income. 8.6 percent were very low-income. 19.
 
 
 
18.6 percent
of U.S. working families with children were low-income, with 6.6 percent were very low-income. 20.
 
 
 
24.7 percent
Poverty rates for U.S. Blacks in 2004. and Hispanics (21.9 percent), rose for non-Hispanic Whites (8.6 percent in 2004, up from 8.2 percent in 2003), and decreased for Asians (9.8 percent in 2004, down from 11.8 percent in 2003). 21.
 
 
 
8.6 percent
Poverty rates for the U.S.'s non-Hispanic Whites in 2004. 22.
 
 
 
9.0 million
Blacks in the U.S. are in poverty. 44.
 
 
 
9.8 percent
Poverty rates for Asians in the U.S. 2004. 23.
 
 
12.6 percent
U.S. Poverty rate of the total Asian population in the U.S. in 1999, closely compared to the national rate of 12.4 percent. But the rate varied significantly within the Asian community: A whopping 29.3 percent of Cambodians and 37.8 percent of Hmong in the U.S. are in poverty. 37.
 
 
 
1.2 million
Asians in the U.S. are in poverty. 38.
 
 
17.7 percent
of Pacific Islanders in the U.S. live below the poverty threshold, 5.3 percent higher than the national average. 39.
 
 
 
21.9 percent
Poverty rates for Hispanics in the U.S. in 2004. 24.
 
 
9.1 million
Hispanics in the U.S. are in poverty. 40.
 
 
 
22.6 percent
of the Hispanic population in the United States was in poverty in 1999, compared with 12.4 percent for the total population. Among Latino groups, the poverty rate ranged from a high of 27.5 percent among Dominicans to lows of 14.6 percent for Cubans and 12.8 percent for Spaniards. 41.
 
 
 
27.8 percent
of Hispanics under 18 years of age were in poverty in 1999. Young Hispanics were more likely to live in poverty in 1999 than all those in the U.S. under 18 —over 1 in 4 [27.8 percent] compared with 1 in 6 [16.6 percent]. About 1 in 3 Dominicans and Puerto Ricans under 18 lived below the poverty level in 1999. 42.
 

 
19.6 percent
of the Hispanic population 65 years and over was in poverty in 1999 – compared with 9.9 percent of the total older population. 28.6 percent of Dominicans over the age of 65 were in poverty, while the rate fell to 16.4 percent for South Americans and 12.0 percent for Spaniards. 43.
 
 
 
The chart on the right illustrates the percentage of those within a given race / ethnicity who are in poverty within the United States. The first column, in red, shows the U.S. national average for those below the poverty threshold – 12.7 percent. However, 8.6 percent of U.S. Non-Hispanics Whites are in poverty, while 24.7 percent of U.S. Blacks are in poverty. All of the data except for the Native American population information is as of 2004: for the Native American population, it is a three-year average rate (of 24.3 percent). 25.

 
 
In this chart, we've compared the percentage of the race / ethnicity in poverty to the percentage of it in the overall population – which dramatically illustrates the disproportionate effect poverty has within particular races. This is further confirmed when you consider that, because of its majority in the total population, the Non-Hispanic Whites should be 67 percent of the poor in the U.S. But instead, they are just 45.6 percent of those in poverty. 26.

 
 
 

POVERTY IN THE U.S.

 
 
 

POVERTY – INTERNATIONAL

 
 
 
Spanish aphorism: "The only truly poor person is one who has no family." 27.
 
 
 
39 percent
of households in Latin America and the Caribbean live below the absolute poverty line. And while the number of those in poverty is increasing, the per capita GDP has been shrinking. By 1989, the per capita GDP had fell to what was equivalent to a 1977 level. 28.
 
 
 
15 percent
of European families are at risk of being in poverty. 29.
 
 
 
12.3 percent
of families in Ireland are in poverty. 30.
 
 
 
A European test for poverty:
if for a household to fall below 60 percent of the household total mean income. 31.
 
 
 
19 percent
of those in Spain are in poverty. 67 percent of Spanish households have difficulty making ends meet while 38 percent cannot afford at least three of the basic necessities. 32.
 
 
 
Over half
of those in Finland in the late 1990s who were in poverty were families with children. 33.
 
 
 
12.3 percent
of families in Italy are in poverty. 13.9 percent of total population is in poverty. 34.
 
 
 
21 percent
of families in Portugal are at risk of being in poverty. 35.
 
 
 
Doing better –
While the presence of children in a family often increases the poverty, in Greece, the poverty rate for families with one or two children is actually lower than for families without children. One explanation for this is that families are choosing to stabilize their finances before having children. 36.
 
 
_______________________________________________
 
 
1. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 9. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
2. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 9. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
3. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 11, p. 58, Table B-3, "Poverty Status of Families by Type of Family: 1959 to 2004." Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
4. ________, "Many Working Families with Children Rely on Food Pantries," Urban Institute (April 28, 2004). Archived at: http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=900704
5. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 45. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
6. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 45. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
7. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 14. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
8. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 13. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
9. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 14. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
10. ________, “Defining Poverty and Why It Matters For Children,” Children’s Defense Fund (August 2004), p. 2. Available at: http://www.childrensdefense.org/familyincome/childpoverty/definingpoverty.pdf
11. _______, Coming Up Short: A Comparison of Wages and Work Supports in 10 American Communities, Report by Wider Opportunities for Women, Washington, DC (Summer / Fall 2004), p. 4. Archived at: http://wowonline.org/docs/dynamic-CTTA-43.pdf
12. _______, Coming Up Short: A Comparison of Wages and Work Supports in 10 American Communities, Report by Wider Opportunities for Women, Washington, DC (Summer / Fall 2004), p. 4. Archived at: http://wowonline.org/docs/dynamic-CTTA-43.pdf
13. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 58, Table B-3, "Poverty Status of Families by Type of Family: 1959 to 2004." Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
14. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 58, Table B-3, "Poverty Status of Families by Type of Family: 1959 to 2004." Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
15. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 58, Table B-3, "Poverty Status of Families by Type of Family: 1959 to 2004." Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
16. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 11. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
17. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 11. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
18. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 11. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
19. ________, Executive Summary of California Budget Project Report, Working Hard, Falling Short: Investing in California’s Working Families (January 2005), p. 3. Available at: http://www.cbp.org/2005/0412wpfExecSumm.pdf
20. ________, Executive Summary of California Budget Project Report, Working Hard, Falling Short: Investing in California’s Working Families (January 2005), p. 3. Available at: http://www.cbp.org/2005/0412wpfExecSumm.pdf
21. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 9. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
22. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 9. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
23. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 9. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
24. Note that the U.S. Census bureau considers "Hispanic" to be an ethnicity, not a race, so Hispanic may include those who are White, Black, or another race. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 9. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
25. Note that the U.S. Census bureau considers "Hispanic" to be an ethnicity, not a race, so Hispanic may include those who are White, Black, or another race. Source of data for chart: Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 9. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
26. Note that the U.S. Census bureau considers Hispanic to be an ethnicity, not a race, so Hispanic may include those who are White, Black, or another race. Source of data for chart: Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 9. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
27. David Sven Reher, "Family Ties in Western Europe: Persistent Contrasts," Population and Development Review (June 1, 1998) (citation omitted). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?docid=1G1:21059915
28. Sherri Grasmuck, "Gender, Households and Informal Entrepreneurship in the Dominican Republic," Journal of Comparative Family Studies (March 22, 1997) (citation omitted). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?docid=1G1:20355395
29. Walter Bien, "The Situation of Families In EU-15: A Synthesis Based on the National Reports," General Monitoring Report, 2004, European Observatory on Family Matters (2004), p. 19. Archived at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/eoss/downloads/gm_04_synthese_en.pdf
30. Walter Bien, "The Situation of Families In EU-15: A Synthesis Based on the National Reports," General Monitoring Report, 2004, European Observatory on Family Matters (2004), p. 19. Archived at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/eoss/downloads/gm_04_synthese_en.pdf
31. Juan Antonio Fernández Cordón, The Situation of Families in Spain in 2001, European Observatory on Family Matters (2001), p. 7. Archived at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/eoss/downloads/gm_01_spain_cordon_en.pdf
32. Juan Antonio Fernández Cordón, The Situation of Families in Spain in 2001, European Observatory on Family Matters (2001), p. 7. Archived at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/eoss/downloads/gm_01_spain_cordon_en.pdf
33. Sirpa Taskinen, The Situation of Families in Finland in 2001, European Observatory on Family Matters (2001), p. 4. Archived at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/eoss/downloads/gm_01_finland_taskinen_en.pdf
34. Giovanni B. Sgritta, "Families in Italy: Policies, Challenges and Opportunities," General Monitoring Report, 2004, European Observatory on Family Matters (2004), p. 10. Archived at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/eoss/downloads/gm_04_Italy.pdf
35. Walter Bien, "The Situation of Families In EU-15: A Synthesis Based on the National Reports," General Monitoring Report, 2004, European Observatory on Family Matters (2004), p. 19. Archived at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/eoss/downloads/gm_04_synthese_en.pdf
36. Christos Bagavos, "Families in Greece: Policies, Challenges and Opportunities," General Monitoring Report, 2004, European Observatory on Family Matters (2004), p. 11. Archived at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/eoss/downloads/gm_04_Greece.pdf
37. Terrance J. Reeves and Claudette E. Bennett, We the People: Asians in the United States, Census 2000 Special Reports, CENSR-17. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (2004), p. 17. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/censr-17.pdf
38. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 11. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
39. Philip M. Harris and Nicholas A. Jones, "We the People: Pacific Islanders in the United States," Census 2000 Special Report, CENSR-26. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 7. Archived at: http://www.census.gov./prod/2005pubs/censr-26.pdf
40. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 11. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf
41. Roberto R. Ramirez, We the People: Hispanics in the United States, Census 2000 Special Reports, CENSR-18. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (2004), p. 16. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/censr-18.pdf
42. Roberto R. Ramirez, We the People: Hispanics in the United States, Census 2000 Special Reports, CENSR-18. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (2004), p. 16. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/censr-18.pdf
43. Roberto R. Ramirez, We the People: Hispanics in the United States, Census 2000 Special Reports, CENSR-18. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (2004), p. 17. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/censr-18.pdf
44. Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Cheryl Hill Lee, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004, Current Population Reports, P60-229. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (August 2005), p. 11. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf