Poverty rate in the United States from 1990 to 2016

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Percentage of population

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This graph shows the poverty rate in the United States among all people from 1990 to 2016. Over 11 percent of the population were living below the poverty line in 2000. In 2016, the poverty rate was 12.7 percent in the U.S.
Poverty in the United States

As shown in the statistic above, the poverty rate among all people living in the Unites States has shifted within the last 15 years.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines poverty as follows: “Absolute poverty measures poverty in relation to the amount of money necessary to meet basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. The concept of absolute poverty is not concerned with broader quality of life issues or with the overall level of inequality in society.”

The poverty rate in the United States varies widely across different ethnic groups. Black Americans are the ethnic group with the most people living in poverty in 2016, with an amount of 22 percent of the Black population with an income below the poverty line. In comparison to that, only 8.8 percent of the White (non-Hispanic) population, were living below the poverty line in 2016.

Children are one of the most poverty endangered population groups in the U.S. between 1990 and 2016. Child poverty peaked in 1993 with 18 percent of children living in poverty in that year in the United States. Between 2000 and 2010, the child poverty rate in the United States has been increasing every year; however, in the recent years, there is a trend of decline, reaching 18 percent in 2016.

The number of people living in poverty in the U.S. varies from state to state. Compared to California, where about 13.9 percent of the population were living in poverty in 2016 (about 5.44 million citizens), the state of Minnesota had a poverty rate of roughly 8 percent (about 470,000 citizens).
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Release date
September 2017
United States
Survey time period
Supplementary notes
For 2004, figures are revised to reflect a correction to the weights in the 2005 ASEC.
For 2000: Consistent with 2001 data through implementation of Census 2000-based population controls and a 28,000 household sample expansion.
For 1999, figures are based on Census 2000 population controls.
For 1992, figures are based on 1990 census population controls.
For 1991, figures are revised to correct for nine omitted weights from the original March 1992 CPS file.

For information on sampling error, nonsampling error, and definitions, see Current Population Survey, 2013 Annual Social and Economic (ASEC) Supplement.

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