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What Is Poverty?

Fact Sheet
February 19, 2019

The following are the 2019 Federal Poverty Income Guidelines, informally referred to as the "federal poverty level." The guidelines determine the benefit levels of many low-income assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

It's important to recognize that the federal poverty level is well below what it actually takes for a family to meet basic needs. The official definition of poverty, developed in the early 1960s, is outdated and flawed. Under that definition, families are poor when their income is less than three times the cost of a modest basket of food.