Poor people in the United States are so diverse that they cannot be characterized along any one dimension. Therefore, this report presents poverty data by selected characteristics—age, race and Hispanic origin/1, nativity, family composition, work experience, and geography—to illustrate how poverty rates vary.
(Numbers in parentheses denote 90-percent confidence intervals/2.)
Following the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) Directive 14, the Census Bureau uses a set of money income thresholds that vary by family size and composition to detect who is poor (see Table A-2, Appendix A). If a family’s total income is less than that family’s threshold, then that family, and every individual in it, is considered poor. The poverty thresholds do not vary geographically, but they are updated annually for inflation with the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U). The official poverty definition counts money income before taxes and excludes capital gains and noncash benefits (such as public housing, medicaid, and food stamps).
This report also presents data by two other measures: the ratio of income to poverty level and the income deficit. The ratio of income to poverty level shows the number and percent of people with incomes below multiples of their poverty thresholds; the income deficit shows the amount of cash needed to bring all poor families up to their poverty thresholds.
In the early 1980s, the Census Bureau began examining how government noncash benefits affect poverty and how taxes affect measurement of the income distribution. The section entitled ‘‘Alternative Definitions of Poverty’’ presents updated estimates of the incremental effects of benefits and taxes on poverty for 1997.
The numbers in this report are estimates for calendar year 1997, and are based on the March 1998 Current Population Survey (CPS), conducted by the Census Bureau. For more details about how these data were collected, please see the section entitled ‘‘Notes and Users’ Comments.’’
1 People of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
2 For a definition of ‘‘confidence interval,’’ see the section entitled ‘‘Standard Errors and Their Use’’ in Appendix D.
3 See footnote 1.
4 In this report, ‘‘suburbs’’ refers to metropolitan areas outside central cities.
5 The 1989 figures listed in the text and Table A have been adjusted to 1990 census population controls for more meaningful comparisons with figures from the 1990s. As a result, these figures may not match the 1989 figures listed in the time-series tables in Appendix C. The reader is also cautioned that these comparisons are between 1989 and 1997 only and should not be interpreted as a trend.