Defining poverty: In money terms, for a family of (Census):

  • One: $9,645 a year,
  • Two: $12,334 a year (amount varies with how many children are part of household),
  • Three: $15,067 a year,
  • About $4000 for each additional person.

Notes: These numbers are what the Census Bureau uses to define poverty. The Department of Health and Human Services use similar - but simplified - numbers which are used by service agencies. The numbers only include cash income, not non-cash support like food stamps. It also doesn't include cash back from the Earned Income Tax Credit. (NYT & Census)

Percent of Americans who are in poverty:

  • 2005: 12.6 % of total population (Census)
  • 2004: 12.7% of total population (Census);
  • 2003: 12.5% of total population (Census);

over the years

How long people stay in poverty (Census):

Of people who leave the welfare roles within four years:

  • 2-4 months: 51.1% of people in poverty are out of poverty within 4 months,
  • 5 months - year: 28.5%,
  • 1 - 4 years: 20.4%.
  • 2% stay in poverty more than 4 years.


Definitions: the US doesn't track "hunger" - but instead defines households with:

  • "low food security" as "Reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet. Little or no indication of reduced food intake." and
  • "very low food security" as "Reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake." (USDA)

The number of Americans who have:

  • low or very low food security: 11%
  • very low food security: 4% (USDA)

Where the facts are from:

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