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2010 HHS Poverty Guidelines

(August 2010)

[Latest Poverty Guidelines]
[Federal Register Notice, August 3, 2010 — 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 2010 Poverty Guidelines]

Legislation enacted in late 2009 and early 2010 prohibited publication of 2010 poverty guidelines before May 31, 2010, and required that the 2009 poverty guidelines remain in effect until publication of updated guidelines.  Legislation to further delay publication of the 2010 guidelines did not pass.  The procedure for updating the 2010 guidelines was modified to take into account the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) for the period for which their publication was delayed.  As a result, the poverty guideline figures for the remainder of 2010 — given below — were the same as the 2009 poverty guideline figures.

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

  • The poverty thresholds, and
  • The poverty guidelines.

The poverty thresholds are the original version of the federal poverty measure.  They are updated each year by the Census Bureau (although they were originally developed by Mollie Orshansky of the Social Security Administration).  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 poverty guidelines for the remainder of 2010 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.

NOTE: The poverty guideline figures below are NOT the figures the Census Bureau uses to calculate the number of poor persons.
The figures that the Census Bureau uses are the poverty thresholds.


The 2010 Poverty Guidelines for the
48 Contiguous States and the District of Columbia
Persons in family Poverty guideline
1 $10,830
2 14,570
3 18,310
4 22,050
5 25,790
6 29,530
7 33,270
8 37,010
For families with more than 8 persons, add $3,740 for each additional person.


2010 Poverty Guidelines for
Persons in family Poverty guideline
1 $13,530
2 18,210
3 22,890
4 27,570
5 32,250
6 36,930
7 41,610
8 46,290
For families with more than 8 persons, add $4,680 for each additional person.


2010 Poverty Guidelines for
Persons in family Poverty guideline
1 $12,460
2 16,760
3 21,060
4 25,360
5 29,660
6 33,960
7 38,260
8 42,560
For families with more than 8 persons, add $4,300 for each additional person.

SOURCE:  Federal Register, Vol. 75, No. 148, August 3, 2010, pp. 45628–45629

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 computations for the poverty guidelines for the remainder of 2010 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).”