Data Methodology

Official U.S. poverty counts should be thought of as statistical measures rather than valid indicators of economic well-being. The counts are based on a poverty line that was developed more than 50 years ago. This line does not reflect changes in current spending patterns nor does it account for geographic differences in costs of living. For example, housing costs take up a larger portion of family budgets than they did 50 years ago and housing costs are significantly higher in some areas of the country than others. As a result, using the federal poverty line underestimates the number of people in this country who do not have enough to get by on their own.

The Shared Humanity Project has calculated new relative income standards that are based on 50% of median income for every county in the country. These locally-based income standards reflect the resources required to live independently within a community.

We chose an anchored, relative income standard rather than an absolute threshold, such as self-sufficiency standards, because we wanted our income standards to be simple to calculate and replicate. Rather than enter the discussion about how to best define minimum needs and self-sufficiency, we want to be a steward in developing solutions to poverty and coalitions to implement the solutions.

Using our National Poverty Plan Standards (NPPS) and updated data from 2021, we estimate that nearly 82 million Americans fall below that level. Poverty and the lack of economic opportunity in this country have reached epidemic proportions, and it is time we measure, count, and address this in a way that will solve it.

Read more about our methodology below or on a new page.


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