The U.S. federal poverty line is set annually by the federal government, based on algorithms developed in the 1960s and adjusted for inflation.
In 2018, the federal poverty line for a family of four in the contiguous U.S. is $25,100. It’s somewhat higher in Hawaii ($28,870) and Alaska ($31,380).
…The rates of poverty over time by age show that, while poverty among seniors has declined, child poverty and poverty among adults have changed little over the last 40 years. Today, the poverty rate among children is nearly double the rate experienced by seniors.
…Political discussions about poverty often include underlying assumptions about whether those living in poverty are responsible for their own circumstances.
One perspective identifies certain categories of poor as more deserving of assistance because they are victims of circumstance. These include children, widows, the disabled and workers who have lost a job. Other individuals who are perceived to have made bad choices – such as school dropouts, people with criminal backgrounds or drug users – may be less likely to receive sympathetic treatment in these discussions.
…Among the working-age poor in the U.S. (ages 18 to 64), approximately 35 percent are not eligible to work, meaning they are disabled, a student or retired.
…A large number of the poor who are eligible for benefits are children and would not be expected to work. Sixty-three percent of adults who are eligible for benefits can work and already do.
…Poverty exists in all areas of the country, but the population living in high-poverty neighborhoods has increased over time. Following the Great Recession, some 14 million people lived in extremely poor neighborhoods, more than twice as many as had done so in 2000.