United States Poverty Statistics


  • The nation’s official poverty rate in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, was 12.5 percent. Poverty is defined by the Bureau as $21,203 for a family of four; $16,530 for a family of three; $13,540 for a family of two; and for unrelated individuals, $10,590 (U.S. Census Bureau press release, 8/26/08 ).
  • Poverty in the United States is cyclical in nature with roughly 12% to 16% living below the federal poverty line at any given point in time, and roughly 40% falling below the poverty line at some time within a 10 year time span (Zweig, Michael (2004) What's Class Got to do With It, American Society in the Twenty-first Century, cited in Wikipedia, "Poverty in the United States")
  • Most Americans (58.5%) will spend at least one year below the poverty line at some point between ages 25 and 75 (Hacker, J. S. (2006). The great risk shift: The new insecurity and the decline of the American dream, cited in Wikipedia, "Poverty in the United States")
  • For Hispanics, 21.5 percent were in poverty in 2007, up from 20.6 percent in 2006. Poverty rates remained statistically unchanged for non-Hispanic whites (8.2 percent), blacks (24.5 percent) and Asians (10.2 percent) in 2007 (U.S. Census Bureau press release, 8/26/08 ).
  • In 2006, 16.8 million people lived in working-poor families. This translates into 7.7% of all American families living below 100% of poverty have at least one family member working (U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2007 Annual Social and Economic Supplement (POV 10)).
  • The chance at birth of a child not surviving to age 60 is 11.8 percent in the United States, one of the highest among developed nations (United Nations Development Programme).
  • According to the Bread for the World Institute 3.5 percent of U.S. households experience hunger. Some people in these households frequently skip meals or eat too little, sometimes going without food for a whole day. 9.6 million people, including 3 million children, live in these homes.
  • America's Second Harvest (http://www.secondharvest.org/), the nation's largest network of food banks, reports that 23.3 million people turned to the agencies they serve in 2001, an increase of over 2 million since 1997. Forty percent were from working families.
  • 33 million Americans continue to live in households that did not have an adequate supply of food. Nearly one-third of these households contain adults or children who went hungry at some point in 2000. (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, March 2002, "Household Food Security in the United States, 2000")
  • In 2006, 10.9% of households (12.6 million households) were food insecure, meaning that they did not always have an adequate supply of food on hand (USDA. Mark Nord, M. Andrews, S. Carlson.  Household Food Security in the United States, 2006).
  • In 2006, 3.3% of all U.S. households (3.8 million households) accessed emergency food from a food pantry one or more times, or 21% of all food-insecure households (ibid.).
  • In 2007, 8.1 million children (11 percent) did not have health insurance (U.S. Census Bureau press release, 8/26/08 ).
  • Overall, 10.4 percent of non-Hispanic whites lacked health insurance in 2007. Among blacks, the percentage was 19.5; among Asians, 16.8; among Hispanics, 32.1; and among Native Americans 32.1 (ibid.).
  • In 2007, U.S. poverty rates ranged from 7.1 percent in New Hampshire to 20.6 percent in Mississippi (ibid.).
  • As of 1995 (the latest figures available), Federal Reserve research found that the wealth of the top one percent of Americans is greater than that of the bottom 95 percent. Three years earlier, the Fed's Survey of Consumer Finance found that the top one percent had wealth greater than the bottom 90 percent (Jeff Gates, Statistics on Poverty and Inequality).
  • Adjusting for inflation, the net worth of the median American household fell 10 percent between 1989 and 1997, declining from $54,600 to $49,900. The net worth of the top one percent is now 2.4 times the combined wealth of the poorest 80 percent (ibid.).
  • The modest net worth of white families is 8 times that of African-Americans and 12 times that of Hispanics. The median financial wealth of African-Americans (net worth less home equity) is $200 (one percent of the $18,000 for whites) while that of Hispanics is zero (ibid.).
  • In 1996, the Census Bureau reported record-level inequality, with the top fifth of U.S. households claiming 48.2 percent of national income while the bottom fifth gets by on 3.6 percent (ibid.).


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