The official poverty statistics for the US are compiled by the Census Bureau.
Because we have only recently left 2005 behind, the annual poverty
data are only available through 2004. You can see the Census Bureau
table of the most recent data here:
Poverty Status of People by Family Relationship, Race, and Hispanic
Origin: 1959 to 2004
Here are the numbers for the past ten years:
Year Total Number Percent
Population in poverty
(thousands of people)
2004...... 290,605 36,997 12.7
2003...... 287,699 35,861 12.5
2002...... 285,317 34,570 12.1
2001...... 281,475 32,907 11.7
2000 ..... 278,944 31,581 11.3
1999 ..... 276,208 32,791 11.9
1998...... 271,059 34,476 12.7
1997...... 268,480 35,574 13.3
1996...... 266,218 36,529 13.7
1995...... 263,733 36,425 13.8
1994...... 261,616 38,059 14.5
As you can see, the poverty numbers were declining steadily in the
latter part of the 1990's, but then took a U-turn in 2001, and have
been climbing steadily since then.
The rate during this period was never quite as low as 11.1% -- though
it got close in 2000. Similarly, it has not yet climbed back above
the 14% level, wehre it was in 1994, though it certainly seems as it
may be headed in that direction.
Another interesting statistic is the number of people in near-poverty,
defined as those with an income of 125% of the poverty line, or less.
You can see some of these data here:
People Below 125 Percent of Poverty Level and the Near Poor
Year Total Number Percent
2004..... 290,605 49,666 17.1
2003..... 287,699 48,687 16.9
2002..... 285,317 47,084 16.5
As you can see, the numbers are considerably higher, and have ranged
beyond 20% of the population in recent history.
Lastly, you mentioned the various ways of measuring poverty.
Although the US does have an "official" measure in the Census Bureau
figures, it is widely recognized that different types of measures can
result in very different estimates of the number of poor.
This report looks at exactly this phenomenon:
Alternative Poverty Estimates in the United States: 2003
Although it's a bit technical in nature, the bottom line is that
poverty estimates can vary by a factor of two, depending on the type
of methods used to count the number of people in poverty.
I trust this information fully answers your question.
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All the best,
search strategy -- Used bookmarked sites for poverty statistics.