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The poverty threshold serves different purposes, including tracking poverty over time, comparing poverty across different demographic groups, and as the starting point for determining eligibility for a range of federal assistance programs. (To learn more about using the poverty thresholds, or their administrative counterpoint, the poverty guidelines, for determining program eligibility, see FAQ #1.)
In 2015, the most recent year for which data are available, the poverty threshold for a family of four was $24,257. The official national poverty rate was 13.5 percent. There were 43.1 million people in poverty.
Figure 1. Official U.S. poverty rates in 1968, 1990, and 2015 show variation by age and racial/ethnic group and over time