Frequently Asked Questions

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How does the U.S. Census Bureau define ratio of  income to poverty?

Some Census Bureau tables show counts of people or families, categorized by how their income compares with their poverty threshold. The ratio of income to poverty is a family's or person's income divided by their poverty threshold.

Income-to-poverty ratio categories represent variations of the poverty level. Frequently-used ratios include:

  • Ratios below 1.00 (below 100 percent of poverty) are below the official poverty definition, while ratios of 1.00 or greater (100 percent of poverty or greater) indicate income above the poverty level.

  • Ratios below 0.50 (50 percent of poverty, that is, income less than half of the poverty threshold) have sometimes been described as "severe poverty", while those with ratios at/or above 1.00 percent by less than 1.25 percent have been described as "near poverty".

You can access the most recent ratio data on a national level from Current Population Survey.  Table POV46 provides poverty status by state (weighted and sample person count) by age and for families by specific age group.   Historical poverty tables include data for these two groups. 

Our most current data on income to poverty ratios comes from the American Community Survey 1-year estimates for all geographic areas of 65,000 or more population, and for all geographic areas of 20,000 or more population from the 2006 to 2008 3-year estimates.  These data tables will be updated annually for all geographic areas in the U.S. after the 2010 census.


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