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Poverty in the United States: 1998

Written by:
Report Number P60-207


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.

The estimates in this report are based on interviewing a sample of the population. Respondents provide answers to the survey questions to the best of their ability. As with all surveys, the estimates may differ from the actual values.


(Confidence intervals for estimates are provided in Table A. The uncertainty in the estimates should be taken into consideration when using these estimates.)

  • The poverty rate for the United States dropped to 12.7 percent in 1998, down from 13.3 percent in 1997. The number of poor dropped significantly also, to 34.5 million people, down from 35.6 million people in 1997.
  • The number of poor children and their poverty rate decreased as well. In 1998, 13.5 million or 18.9 percent of people under 18 years of age were poor, down from the 14.1 million and 19.9 percent reported for 1997. This was the first time the child poverty rate has been significantly below 20 percent since 1980.
  • The poverty rate also decreased for Hispanics: 25.6 percent were poor in 1998, down from 27.1 percent in 1997.
  • The poverty rate declined among Whites not of Hispanic origin: 8.2 percent were poor in 1998, down from 8.6 percent reported for 1997.
  • The poverty rate for Blacks did not change between 1997 and 1998. At 26.1 percent in 1998, it remained at the lowest level since 1959.
  • The South’s poverty rate declined to a new record low of 13.7 percent in 1998, down from 14.6 percent in 1997. The number of poor in the South declined to 13.0 million in 1998, down from 13.7 million in 1997.
  • Outside metropolitan areas, the number of poor people as well as the poverty rate declined. In 1998, 14.4 percent of people outside metropolitan areas were poor, down from 15.9 percent in 1997.
  • The average income deficit for poor families (the average dollar amount needed to raise a poor family out of poverty) was $6,620 in 1998; this was statistically unchanged from 1997.
  • In three states the poverty rate changed significantly, based on the 2-year moving averages of 1997-98 with those for 1996-97. The poverty rate dropped in New Mexico and Virginia, while North Dakota showed an increase.

1 People of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

Page Last Revised - October 8, 2021
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