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Poverty: 2008 and 2009

Report Number ACSBR/09-1
Alemayehu Bishaw and Suzanne Macartney
Component ID: #ti631474059


This report is one of a series produced to highlight results from the 2009 American Community Survey (ACS). It presents poverty estimates based on data from the 2008 and the 2009 ACS. The report compares national and state level poverty rates and summarizes the distribution of income-to-poverty ratios for each state and the District of Columbia.

The ACS also provides poverty estimates for counties, places, and other localities.


  • In the 2009 ACS, 14.3 percent of the U.S. population had income below their respective poverty thresholds. The number of people in poverty increased to 42.9 million.
  • Thirty-one states saw increases in both the number and percentage of people in poverty between the 2008 and the 2009 ACS.
  • No state had a statistically significant decline in either the number in poverty or the poverty rate.
  • In the 2009 ACS, 18.9 percent of people in the United States had income less than 125 percent of their poverty threshold, compared to 17.6 percent in the 2008 ACS.
  • The percent of people with income less than 50 percent of their poverty threshold increased from 5.6 percent in the 2008 ACS to 6.3 in the 2009 ACS.

The estimates contained in this report are based on the 2008 and 2009 ACS samples. The ACS is conducted every month with income data collected for the 12 months preceding the interview. Because the survey is continuous, adjacent ACS years have income reference months in common. For these reasons, comparing the 2008 ACS with the 2009 ACS is not an exact comparison of the economic conditions in 2008 with those in 2009. Comparisons should be interpreted with care.1 For more information on the ACS sample design and other topics visit <>.

1 For a discussion of this and related issues see Hogan, Howard, “Measuring Population Change Using the American Community Survey,” Applied Demography in the 21st Century, eds., Steven H. Murdock and David A. Swanson, Springer Netherlands, 2008.

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