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Poverty in the United States

In the United State, the federal agency that determines the measure of poverty is the Census Bureau. This is done through a comparison of pre-tax income against three times the cost of a minimum food diet. This figure is then updated annually using the Consumer Price Index to adjust for factors such as inflation, family size and composition, and the age of the householder. Poverty in the United StatesAs of 2015, the poverty threshold for a family of four members was $24,257 and the official national poverty rate was 13.5 percent. In real numbers, this meant that 43.1 million people were living below the poverty line in the United States, out of a total population of 320 million.

The U.S. government only began to measure poverty rates in 1959. At that time the poverty rate was estimated to be 22% of the population percent. Unofficial estimates were made prior to that time. For example, a study conducted in 1914 estimated the poverty rate at 66%. Another conducted in 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, found a staggering 78% of the population was living in poverty. By these historic standards the current poverty rate is ridiculously low. But it has been lower. For example, in 1971 it fell all the way to 11%. Although there has been a recent uptick in child poverty, much of this can be attributed to overall poverty rates among non-whites, who are increasing in their share of the population.

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