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Poverty Estimates, Trends, and Analysis

People and families are considered poor when they lack the economic resources necessary to experience a minimal living standard. Official U.S. Census Bureau statistics estimate that 40 million persons, 12.3 percent of the total population, were poor in the United States in 2017. The topic of poverty is widely considered a cause for national action because poor families often encounter material hardships and reduced well-being and because children who grow up in poor households are less likely to thrive as adults.

ASPE contributes to the federal government’s efforts to reduce poverty in the United States in several ways. One way is to conduct research on the social and economic conditions that lead to poverty and to identify ways in which poor families can improve their circumstances and exit poverty. Some research is conducted by ASPE and some is performed by the ASPE-funded poverty research center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.