Health United States 2020-2021


Two related versions of federal poverty measures are shown in Health, United States. The first measure—a ratio of family income to federal poverty threshold—is constructed using poverty thresholds from the U.S. Census Bureau. Poverty thresholds are updated annually for inflation by the Census Bureau using the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers (CPI–U). Poverty thresholds include a set of money income thresholds that vary by family size and composition but do not vary geographically. Families or people with income below the appropriate threshold are classified as below poverty. For example, the weighted average poverty threshold for a family of four was $26,172 in 2019, $25,701 in 2018, $24,257 in 2015, $22,314 in 2010, $17,603 in 2000, and $13,359 in 1990. For more information, see the Census Bureau’s poverty threshold website at:

The second poverty measure used in Health, United States is a ratio of family income to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) poverty guidelines. Poverty guidelines are derived from the Census Bureau’s poverty thresholds and issued annually by HHS. These guidelines are often used to determine eligibility in certain federal programs. The HHS poverty guidelines consider family size and state (coterminous states, Alaska, and Hawaii), but not family composition. For more information, see the HHS Poverty Guidelines website at:


National Health Interview Survey

For data years before 1997, a ratio of family income to Census Bureau poverty threshold was computed considering family income and family size. Starting with 1997 data, the poverty ratio is based on family income, family size, and family composition (number of children in the family, and for families with two or fewer adults, the age of the adults in the family). (Also see Sources and Definitions, Consumer Price Index [CPI]; Family income; National Health Interview Survey [NHIS].) Data from 1997 through 2018 on poverty were assessed using the Family Core questionnaire of NHIS. From 2019 onward, poverty is assessed as part of the annual core in the Sample Adult and Sample Child questionnaires.