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CPS Poverty Tables Footnotes

Poverty in the United States is measured by comparing family income with one of 48 poverty thresholds--the dollar amounts used to determine who is poor.

The poverty thresholds vary by size of family and the ages of the members.

NA: Not applicable

X: Estimate is not applicable or not available.

B: The percentage has been suppressed because it is statistically unreliable. Percentages are not shown when the denominator is less than 75 thousand.

Z: Rounds to zero.

  1. Universe: All members of the resident civilian noninstitutionalized population of the United States, except for unrelated individuals under age 15 (such as foster children). Since the Current Population Survey asks income questions only to people age 15 and over, if a child under age 15 is not part of a family by birth, marriage or adoption, we do not know their income and cannot determine whether or not they are poor.

    Those people are excluded from the totals so as not to affect the percentages.

  2. People in primary families: People who are related to the householder by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing together. All such people (including related subfamily members) are considered as members of one family. People who are related to each other but not to the householder are counted elsewhere (usually as unrelated subfamilies).

  3. People in unrelated subfamilies: People who are in a married couple with or without children or are a single parent with one or more own, never-married children under the age of 18 living in a household and not related by birth, marriage, or adoption to the householder.

  4. Unrelated individuals: People who are not in primary families (the householder's family) or unrelated subfamilies.

  5. Ratio of income to poverty: People and families are classified as poor if their income is less than their poverty threshold. If their income is less than half their poverty threshold, they are severely poor (below 50% of poverty); less than the threshold itself, they are poor (below 100% of poverty); less than 1.25 times the threshold, below 125% of poverty, and so on. The greater the ratio of income to poverty, the more people fall under the category, because higher ratios include more people with higher incomes.

  6. Percentage below x% of poverty: The number below x% of the poverty threshold, divided by the number in "all income levels," then multiplied by 100. The poverty rate is the percentage below 100% of the poverty threshold.

  7. Householder's poverty status: The poverty threshold and income were based only on his or her family members, if any were present. Anyone not related to the householder had no impact on the householder's poverty status.

  8. Householders living alone: Does not include people in "group quarters " (such as halfway houses or boarding houses) who happen to be living alone.

  9. People in families with related children: People living in a family where at least one member is a related child--a person under 18 who is related to the householder but is not the householder or spouse.

  10. Primary family: A group of two or more people, one of whom is the householder, related by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing together. All such people (including related subfamily members) are considered as members of one family.

  11. In married-couple families the householder may be either spouse.

  12. Refers to the race or ethnicity of the householder. People within the same family may be of different races or ethnicities.

  13. Families with related children: A family in which at least one member is a related child--a person under 18 who is related to the householder but is not the householder or spouse.

  14. Related children: People under 18 who are related to the householder, but who are not themselves the householder or the householder's spouse.

  15. Own children: Sons and daughters, including stepchildren and adopted children, of the householder.

  16. Work experience: Refers to the longest job held in the previous calendar year. The work experience categories are based on the number of weeks worked and the number of hours worked per week.

    Full-time year-round: Worked at least 35 hours per week, for at least 50 weeks last year (including paid sick leave and vacations).

    Not full-time year-round: Worked for at least 1 week last year, but for less than 50 weeks, or less than 35 hours per week, or both.

  17. Tallies by age and sex include people age 16 and older. Tallies by household relationship only include ages 16 to 64.

  18. Includes related children (people under 18 who are related to the householder, but who are not themselves the householder or the householder's spouse), as well as the householder’s own children 18 years and over.

  19. Standard error: A measure of an estimate's variability. The greater the standard error in relation to the size of the estimate, the less reliable the estimate.

  20. Mean income deficit: Obtained by adding up the deficits across all poor families, then dividing by the number of poor families.

    Mean income surplus: Obtained by adding up the surpluses across all nonpoor families, then dividing by the number of nonpoor families.

  21. Median income deficit or surplus: The median deficit is the dollar amount that divides the number of poor families into two equal groups: one-half of the families have a smaller deficit than the median, and the other half have a greater deficit than the median. If all poor families were lined up by the size of their income deficit, the median deficit would be in the middle. Similarly, the median surplus divides nonpoor families into two equal groups.

  22. Deficit or surplus per capita: Deficit per capita was obtained by adding up the deficits across all poor families, then dividing by the number of poor people in those families. Surplus per capita was obtained in a similar way, but for nonpoor people.

  23. Based on the highest grade completed. Applies only to people age 15 and older. People under 15 are included in the totals only.

  24. Natives are defined as people born in the United States, Puerto Rico, or an outlying area of the United States, and those born in a foreign country but who had at least one parent who was a U.S. citizen. All others are foreign-born regardless of date of entry into the United States or citizenship status. The Current Population Survey, the source of these data, does not extend to Puerto Rico or to the outlying areas of the United States, and thus those living there are excluded from these poverty statistics.

  25. Enrollment: Attendance or enrollment in a high school, college or university. Defined only for people ages 16-54 who are not serving in the armed forces. Enrollment or attendance as of the week prior to interview. People under age 16, people 16 to 54 serving in the armed forces, and people 55 and over are shown in the totals only. In 2014, the universe for the school enrollment questions changed from ages 16-24 to ages 16-54.

  26. The averages include householders with and without children.

  27. The averages only include householders with children.

  28. When assigning poverty thresholds, the number of "related children" is the number of people in the family under 18 who are related to the family reference person but are not themselves the family reference person or his or her spouse.

  29. Weighted average poverty thresholds: Some data users want to get a general sense of the "poverty line," rather than the full detail of all 48 thresholds cross-classified by size of family and number of related children. These weighted average thresholds provide that summary, but they are not used to compute poverty data. They are "weighted" averages because among primary families, some child/adult combinations occur more frequently than others. Therefore, the weighted average thresholds take into account how many primary families each threshold applies to when the Census Bureau computes the number of poor.

  30. Totals show the number of people who currently live in census tracts that had poverty rates of 20 percent or more (poverty areas), 30 percent or more, 40 percent or more, and less than 20 percent (outside of poverty areas), according to the 1990 Census of Population and Housing. Among those people, "below poverty level" shows the number and percent who were poor in the current year.

    Census tract: a small geographic area usually containing 2,500 to 8,000 people.

  31. Region and division: There are four regions (Northeast, Midwest, South, and West) and nine divisions, as follows:

    Northeast: New England Division (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut)
    Middle Atlantic Division (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania)
    Midwest: East North Central Division (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin)
    West North Central Division (Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas)
    South: South Atlantic Division (Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida)
    East South Central Division (Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi)
    West: Mountain Division (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada)
    Pacific Division (Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, Hawaii)
  32. Receipt of Assistance: People who lived with someone (a nonrelative or a relative) who received aid. Not every person tallied here received the aid themselves.

  33. Earnings below weighted average poverty threshold for a 4- person family: Identifies how many people do not earn enough at their job (or if they are self-employed, at their farm or business) to keep a family of 4 out of poverty, even when their earnings were combined with their other family members' earnings. This measure is different from the official poverty measure, which uses all sources of money income (except capital gains), not just earnings, and uses thresholds that vary by family size.

  34. Federal surveys give respondents the option of reporting more than one race. Therefore, two basic ways of defining a race group are possible. A group, such as Asian, may be defined as those who reported Asian and no other race (the race-alone or single-race concept) or as those who reported Asian regardless of whether they also reported another race (the race-alone-or-in-combination concept). The Census Bureau uses a variety of approaches. Data for American Indians and Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders are not shown separately.

  35. Information on metropolitan statistical areas and principal cities is available at

  36. Income deficit is the number of dollars a poor family’s (or unrelated individual’s) income falls below its poverty threshold. If income is negative, the deficit equals the threshold. Income surplus is the difference in dollars between a nonpoor family’s income and its poverty threshold.


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