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U.S. Department of Health & Human Services aspe.hhs.gov Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation

2013 Poverty Guidelines

One Version of the [U.S.] Federal Poverty Measure

Federal Register Notice, January 24, 2013 — Full text ]
Prior Poverty Guidelines and Federal Register References Since 1982 ]
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) ]
Further Resources on Poverty Measurement, Poverty Lines, and Their History ]
Computations for the 2013 Poverty Guidelines ]

There are two slightly different versions of the federal poverty measure: 

The poverty thresholds are the original version of the federal poverty measure.  They are updated each year by the Census Bureau.  The thresholds are used mainly for statistical purposes — for instance, preparing estimates of the number of Americans in poverty each year.  (In other words, all official poverty population figures are calculated using the poverty thresholds, not the guidelines.)  Poverty thresholds since 1973 (and for selected earlier years) and weighted average poverty thresholds since 1959 are available on the Census Bureau’s Web site.  For an example of how the Census Bureau applies the thresholds to a family’s income to determine its poverty status, see “How the Census Bureau Measures Poverty” on the Census Bureau’s web site.

The poverty guidelines are the other version of the federal poverty measure. They are issued each year in the Federal Register by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  The guidelines are a simplification of the poverty thresholds for use for administrative purposes — for instance, determining financial eligibility for certain federal programs.  The Federal Register notice of the 2013 poverty guidelines is available.

The poverty guidelines are sometimes loosely referred to as the “federal poverty level” (FPL), but that phrase is ambiguous and should be avoided, especially in situations (e.g., legislative or administrative) where precision is important.

Key differences between poverty thresholds and poverty guidelines are outlined in a table under Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). See also the discussion of this topic on the Institute for Research on Poverty’s web site.

The following figures are the 2013 HHS poverty guidelines which are scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on January 24, 2013. (Additional information will be posted after the guidelines are published.)

2013 POVERTY GUIDELINES FOR THE 48 CONTIGUOUS STATES
AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Persons in family/household Poverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,020 for each additional person.
1$11,490
215,510
319,530
423,550
527,570
631,590
735,610
839,630

 

2013 POVERTY GUIDELINES FOR ALASKA
Persons in family/householdPoverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $5,030 for each additional person.
1$14,350
219,380
324,410
429,440
534,470
639,500
744,530
849,560

 

2013 POVERTY GUIDELINES FOR HAWAII
Persons in family/householdPoverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,620 for each additional person.
1$13,230
217,850
322,470
427,090
531,710
636,330
740,950
845,570

SOURCE:  Federal Register, Vol. 78, No. 16, January 24, 2013, pp. 5182-5183

The separate poverty guidelines for Alaska and Hawaii reflect Office of Economic Opportunity administrative practice beginning in the 1966-1970 period.  Note that the poverty thresholds — the original version of the poverty measure — have never had separate figures for Alaska and Hawaii.  The poverty guidelines are not defined for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Palau. In cases in which a Federal program using the poverty guidelines serves any of those jurisdictions, the Federal office which administers the program is responsible for deciding whether to use the contiguous-states-and-D.C. guidelines for those jurisdictions or to follow some other procedure.

The poverty guidelines apply to both aged and non-aged units.  The guidelines have never had an aged/non-aged distinction; only the Census Bureau (statistical) poverty thresholds have separate figures for aged and non-aged one-person and two-person units.

Programs using the guidelines (or percentage multiples of the guidelines — for instance, 125 percent or 185 percent of the guidelines) in determining eligibility include Head Start, the Food Stamp Program, the National School Lunch Program, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  Note that in general, cash public assistance programs (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Security Income) do NOT use the poverty guidelines in determining eligibility.  The Earned Income Tax Credit program also does NOT use the poverty guidelines to determine eligibility.  For a more detailed list of programs that do and don’t use the guidelines, see the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

The poverty guidelines (unlike the poverty thresholds) are designated by the year in which they are issued.  For instance, the guidelines issued in January 2013 are designated the 2013 poverty guidelines.  However, the 2013 HHS poverty guidelines only reflect price changes through calendar year 2012; accordingly, they are approximately equal to the Census Bureau poverty thresholds for calendar year 2012.  (The 2012 thresholds are expected to be issued in final form in September 2013; a preliminary version of the 2012 thresholds is now available from the Census Bureau.)

The computations for the 2013 poverty guidelines are available.

The poverty guidelines may be formally referenced as “the poverty guidelines updated periodically in the Federal Register by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the authority of 42 U.S.C. 9902(2).”


Go to Further Resources on Poverty Measurement, Poverty Lines, and Their History

Go to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Return to the main Poverty Guidelines, Research, and Measurement page.