The Federal Government each year releases the federal poverty measure. There are actually two slightly different versions: the poverty thresholds, and; the poverty guidelines.

The poverty thresholds are the original version of the federal poverty measure. They are updated each year by the Census Bureau. They are used mainly for statistical purposes, such as preparing estimates of the number of Americans in poverty each year.

The poverty guidelines are the other version of the federal poverty measure. They are issued each year by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The guidelines are a simplification of the poverty thresholds for use for administrative purposes, such as determining financial eligibility for certain federal programs. The poverty guidelines are sometimes referred to as the “federal poverty level” (FPL) although that is not an official title.

There are three lists issued: one for the 48 contiguous states and DC, and one each for Alaska and Hawaii. The main list is below. You can find the others online at

The 2009 Poverty Guidelines for the 48 Contiguous States and DC

  • 1 Person in family = $10,830
  • 2 People in family = $14,570
  • 3 People in family = $18,310
  • 4 People in family = $22,050
  • 5 People in family = $25,790
  • 6 People in family = $29,530
  • 7 People in family = $33,270
  • 8 People in family = $37,010

For families with more than 8 persons, add $3,740 for each additional person.