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….
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 2011 poverty guidelines 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.
- Federal Register Notice, January 20, 2011 — Full text (also: pdf version)
- 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 2011 Poverty Guidelines
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