Poverty data offer an important way to evaluate the nation's economic well-being. Because poor people in the United States are too diverse to be characterized along any one dimension, this report illustrates how poverty rates vary by selected characteristics—age, race and Hispanic origin, nativity, family composition, work experience, and geography. These data reveal how many people were poor and how the poverty population has changed. A description of the official measure of poverty may be found on page 5.
Whether one is in poverty or not provides but one perspective on economic well-being. This report discusses as well the extent of poverty (page 9) and more comprehensive experimental measures of poverty that account for noncash benefits (such as food stamps) and taxes (such as the Earned Income Credit) in income (page 13).
The estimates in this report are based on interviewing a sample of the population. Respondents provide answers to the best of their ability, but as with all surveys, the estimates may differ from the actual values.
1 Because Hispanics may be of any race, data in this report for Hispanics overlap slightly with data for the Black population and for the Asian and Pacific Islander population. Based on the 2002 Current Population Survey Annual Demographic Supplement, 3.7 percent of the Black population and 2.4 percent of the Asian and Pacific Islander population were of Hispanic origin. For the poor population, Hispanic made up 4.7 percent of Blacks and 2.5 percent of Asians and Pacific Islanders (a percentage similar to the total Asian and Pacific Islander population). Despite the sample expansion, single-year data for the American Indian and Alaska Native population are not shown in this report because of their small sample size in the 2002 Current Population Survey Annual Demographic Supplement.
2 In this report, "suburbs" refers to metropolitan areas outside central cities.