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General Research on Income and Poverty

According to the US Census Bureau, the official poverty rate in 2012 was 15.0– down slightly from 15.1 percent in 2010. After an increase of 2.6 percentage points between 2007 and 2010 (from 12.5 percent to 15.1 percent), the poverty rate has stagnated, decreasing only 0.1 percentage point between 2010 and 2012. The official poverty threshold is based on the costs of food for different types of families. Other measures of poverty are based on different thresholds of need, definitions of income, or regional adjustments and may show different trends. 

The number of people in poverty in 2012 (46.5 million) is the largest number in the 54 years for which poverty estimates have been published. Numerous studies have examined the effects of programs and policies on poverty and other economic self-sufficiency outcomes, such as income, earnings, and employment. The General Research on Income and Poverty section explores theories, trends, measures, and predictors and outcomes as they relate to income and poverty for low-income individuals and families.

View recommendations from the SSRC Librarian on General Research on Income and Poverty and relevant Federal laws and regulations below. 


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Poverty measures establish the income level used to determine whether a family/individual lives in poverty. Poverty measures also provide a framework for understanding the number and demographics of people living in poverty. Alternative measures have been developed at the federal, state, and local levels to supplement the official poverty measure, which the U.S. Census Bureau reports annually. Researchers, practitioners, and policymakers are using the official poverty measure, supplemental poverty measure (also reported annually by the U.S. Census Bureau), and other measures to capture poverty and income trends and data. Click the phrase below to view selected research and resources on poverty measures.

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Federal Laws and Regulations serve as the building blocks of policy and practice on General Research on Income and Poverty. The impact of these laws and regulations are a focus of research. Click the first link below to view legislative resources related to income and poverty. Click the second link to browse additional self-sufficiency legislation and policy in the SSRC library.