Defining Poor and Poverty:

The public sees these terms quite differently than the government does and the administration of programs to assist the poor are not generally understood by either the public or government.

The definition of poor and poverty seem to be one and the same in the public's eyes:  destitute, impoverished, hard to make ends meet.  It does not involve having less money for more lattes. 

It is a matter not of staying poor and also not having reasons or incentives to be poor, not impoverished but less well off.


Does a word have a meaning or just an emotion?





in Polling the Public:

In polling the public on what is considered poor, the consensus is that it is a lot lower economic condition than official definitions: 

poorness n.
Synonyms: poor, indigent, needy, impecunious, penniless, impoverished, poverty-stricken, destitute
These adjectives mean lacking the money or the means for an adequate or comfortable life. Poor is the most general: "Resolve not to be poor: whatever you have, spend less. Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness" (Samuel Johnson).
Indigent and needy refer to one in need or want: indigent people living on the street; distributed food to needy families.
Impecunious and penniless mean having little or no money: "Certainly an impecunious Subaltern was not a catch" (Rudyard Kipling). He made poor investments which left him penniless.
One who is impoverished has been reduced to poverty: an impoverished, third-world country.
Poverty-stricken means suffering from poverty and miserably poor: refugees living in poverty-stricken camps.
Destitute means lacking any means of subsistence: tenants left destitute by the fire.
Usage Note: In informal speech poor is sometimes used as an adverb, as in They never played poorer. In formal usage more poorly would be required in this example.


poor [pʊə pɔː]


a.  lacking financial or other means of subsistence; needy
b.  (as collective noun; preceded by the) the poor
2. characterized by or indicating poverty the country had a poor economy
3. deficient in amount; scanty or inadequate a poor salary
4. (when postpositive, usually foll by in) badly supplied (with resources, materials, etc.) a region poor in wild flowers
5. lacking in quality; inferior
6. giving no pleasure; disappointing or disagreeable a poor play
7. (prenominal) deserving of pity; unlucky poor John is ill again
poor man's (something) a (cheaper) substitute for (something)
[from Old French povre, from Latin pauper; see pauper, poverty]



Highlights of Census Bureau Definition


The data presented here are from the Current Population Survey (CPS), 2011 Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC), the source of official poverty estimates. The CPS ASEC is a sample survey of approximately 100,000 household nationwide. These data reflect conditions in calendar year 2010.
•The official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent — up from 14.3 percent in 2009. This was the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. Since 2007, the poverty rate has increased by 2.6 percentage points, from 12.5 percent to 15.1 percent.
•In 2010, 46.2 million people were in poverty, up from 43.6 million in 2009—the fourth consecutive annual increase in the number of people in poverty.
•Between 2009 and 2010, the poverty rate increased for non-Hispanic Whites (from 9.4 percent to 9.9 percent), for Blacks (from 25.8 percent to 27.4 percent), and for Hispanics (from 25.3 percent to 26.6 percent). For Asians, the 2010 poverty rate (12.1 percent) was not statistically different from the 2009 poverty rate.1
•The poverty rate in 2010 (15.1 percent) was the highest poverty rate since 1993 but was 7.3 percentage points lower than the poverty rate in 1959, the first year for which poverty estimates are available.
•The number of people in poverty in 2010 (46.2 million) is the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.
•Between 2009 and 2010, the poverty rate increased for children under age 18 (from 20.7 percent to 22.0 percent) and people aged 18 to 64 (from 12.9 percent to 13.7 percent), but was not statistically different for people aged 65 and older (9.0 percent).2



1 The poverty rate for Blacks was not statistically different from that of Hispanics in 2010.
2 Since unrelated individuals under 15 are excluded from the poverty universe, there are 422,000 fewer children in the poverty universe than in the total civilian noninstitutionalized population.
Wikipedia Definition of Poverty


Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money.[1] Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live in absolute poverty today. Relative poverty refers to lacking a usual or socially acceptable level of resources or income as compared with others within a society or country.[1] For most of history poverty had been mostly accepted as inevitable as traditional modes of production were insufficient to give an entire population a comfortable standard of living.[1][2] After the industrial revolution, mass production in factories made wealth increasingly more inexpensive and accessible. Of more importance is the modernization of agriculture, such as fertilizers, in order to provide enough yield to feed the population.[3]
The poverty guideline figures are NOT the figures the Census Bureau uses to calculate the number of poor persons. The figures that the Census Bureau uses are the poverty thresholds. The Census Bureau provides an explanation of the difference between poverty thresholds and guidelines.[14] The Census Bureau uses a set of money income thresholds that vary by family size and composition to determine who is in poverty.[13] The 2010 figure for a family of 4 with no children under 18 years of age is $22,541, while the figure for a family of 4 with 2 children under 18 is $22,162.[15] For comparison, the 2011 HHS poverty guideline for a family of 4 is $22,350. As of 2011-02-03, data for 2010 is only available as an XLS file (Microsoft Excel format), but data for earlier years is available as HTML web pages.[16]
Two changes were made to the poverty definition in 1969. Thresholds for non-farm families were tied to annual changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rather than changes in the cost of the economy food plan. Farm thresholds were raised from 70 to 85% of the non-farm levels.
In 1981, further changes were made to the poverty definition. Separate thresholds for "farm" and "female-householder" families were eliminated. The largest family size category became "nine persons or more."[13]
Apart from these changes, the U.S. government's approach to measuring poverty has remained static for the past forty years.
Another Definition of Poverty:
The poverty thresholds are the original version of the federal poverty measure (developed by Mollie Orshansky of the Social Security Administration). They are updated each year by the Census Bureau. The thresholds are used mainly for statistical purposes—for instance, preparing the estimates of the number of Americans in poverty for each year's report. Values of the poverty thresholds for the years 1980–2010 for families of different sizes are available on the Census Bureau's Web site. For example, for a four-person family unit with two children, the 2010 poverty threshold is $22.113. For one- or two-person family units, the poverty thresholds differ by age; the 2010 threshold for one individual under age 65 is $11,344, whereas for an individual 65 or over it is $10,458.


Being Poor is bad news.  Staying poor is even worse news.