Poverty Basics

An Introductory Look at Poverty in the U.S.

Poverty is a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon that raises controversial questions – from what causes it, to how it should be defined and measured (see the sidebar on this page), to how it should be reduced. Our Poverty Basics web area uses recent data to provide an introductory look at the extent of poverty and its relationship to changing labor markets, demographic shifts, changing family structures, and social and economic inequality. For more in-depth research on these topics by WCPC faculty affiliates, also see our Research section.



Overview of Poverty in the U.S.

Our Poverty in the U.S. pages present basic data on the extent of poverty in the U.S., comparisons of poverty in the U.S. vs. other countries, interstate comparisons of poverty rates, and profiles of the poor population. Additional pages include:

  • Changing labor markets and poverty, where we highlight some of the labor market conditions that potentially affect the poverty rate, display data on work experience in poor families, and explore how federal and state minimum wage earnings relate to the poverty thresholds.
  • Changing demographics and poverty, where we highlight one of the most significant recent demographic events affecting the nation as a whole – the increase in immigration since 1965. We focus on the size and place of birth of the foreign born population, the education level of immigrants, and the poverty rates of the foreign born and native born populations, and we provide some indicators of the well being of the children of immigrants.
  • The American family and poverty, where we describe how the structure of American families has become more diverse over time, how income varies for different types of families, and how single parent families are over-represented among poor families.
  • Social and economic inequality, where we show the extent to which income inequality has increased in the U.S., as well as some of the myriad of ways in which the U.S. population is stratified – by education and by race and ethnicity.