How is poverty defined?
The American Community Survey uses the federal poverty line threshold to determine poverty status for families and individuals. In 2016, the federal poverty income threshold was $24,339 for a family of four with two children, and $16,543 for a single parent of one child. If a family's total income is less than the corresponding threshold, then that family and every individual in it is considered in poverty.
Poverty is an extreme condition. The National Center for Children in Poverty reported that the level of income families typically require to make ends meet is nearly twice the federal poverty thresholds. While the poverty thresholds are adjusted each year based on inflation, they do not reflect regional differences in cost of living: the poverty thresholds are the same everywhere in the United States. The Census states: "Although the thresholds in some sense reflect a family’s needs, they are intended for use as a statistical yardstick, not as a complete description of what people and families need to live."