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Report Number ACSBR/13-01
Alemayehu Bishaw and Kayla Fontenot
Component ID: #ti973175221


The poverty rate is a key economic indicator often used by policy makers to evaluate current economic conditions within communities and to make comparisons between sectors of the population. It measures the percentage of people whose income fell below the poverty threshold. Federal and state governments use poverty estimates to allocate funds to local communities. Local communities often use these estimates to identify the number of individuals or families eligible for various programs.

This report uses the 2012 and 2013 American Community Survey (ACS) 1-year data to compare poverty rates and the number of people in poverty for the nation, states and the District of Columbia, and large metropolitan areas. The report also examines the proportion of people by selected income-to-poverty ratios for the same geographic levels.

Component ID: #ti1081480154


  • In 2013, about 48.8 million people or 15.8 percent of the U.S. population had income below the poverty level. Neither the number nor the rate for 2013 was statistically different from 2012.
  • This is the second consecutive year without a statistically significant change in the poverty rate. In the previous 4 years, the poverty rate increased each year.
  • New Jersey, New Mexico, and Washington experienced increases in both the number and percentage of people in poverty between 2012 and 2013. New Hampshire and Wyoming experienced declines in both the number and percentage of people in poverty.
  • Between 2012 and 2013, the number and percentage of people in poverty in 42 states and the District of Columbia remained statistically unchanged.
  • In 20 of the 25 largest metropolitan areas, the changes in the number and percentage of people in poverty between 2012 and 2013 were not statistically significant.
  • In 2013, the percentage of people in the United States with income below 125 percent of their poverty threshold was 20.6 percent. The proportion of people with an income-to-poverty ratio less than 50 percent was 7.0 percent.
  • Among large metropolitan areas, the proportion of people with an income-to-poverty ratio less than 50 percent in 2013 ranged from a low of 4.2 percent to a high of 8.4 percent.

The estimates contained in this report are mostly based on the 2012 and 2013 ACS. The ACS is conducted every month, with income data collected for the 12 months preceding the interview. Since the survey is continuous, adjacent ACS years have income reference months in common. Therefore, comparing the 2012 ACS with the 2013 ACS is not an exact comparison of the economic conditions in 2012 with those in 2013, and 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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