Looking at data on individuals living in poverty in your geographic area will help you target scarce resources and valuable workforce services to assist those most in need. 

Both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Census Bureau under the U.S. Department of Commerce offer data on poverty levels or thresholds.

The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) also issues the Lower Living Standard Income Level (LLSIL) annually.

HHS Poverty Guidelines

HHS' annually updated poverty guidelines are used as an eligibility criterion by the Community Services Block Grant program and a number of other federal programs.

The poverty guidelines issued are a simplified version of the poverty thresholds that the Census Bureau uses to prepare its estimates of the number of individuals and families in poverty.  As required by law, the annual update is accomplished by increasing the latest published Census Bureau national poverty thresholds by the relevant percentage change in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI–U)

After this inflation adjustment, the guidelines are rounded and adjusted to standardize the differences between family sizes. Note that the HHS guidelines are roughly equal to the poverty thresholds for their respective calendar years, which the Census Bureau normally publishes in September of each year.

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Census Bureau Poverty Thresholds

The Census Bureau uses a set of money or income thresholds that vary by family size and composition to determine who is in poverty. 

Poverty thresholds were originally derived in 1963-1964, using U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food budgets designed for families under economic stress combined with data about what portion of their income families spent on food.  If below the threshold, then that family and every individual in it is considered to be living in poverty.

The same thresholds are used throughout the U.S., and do not vary geographically by region or state.  They are updated annually for inflation using the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U).  Although the thresholds in some sense reflect families needs, many government aid programs use HHS Poverty Guidelines, or multiples thereof.


The Lower Living Standard Income Level (LLSIL)

Another threshold available is the ETA annual LLSIL tables.

These income level standards are used for determining participant eligibility for workforce development programs around the country, assisting low income adults and youth to help them achieve economic and career success.


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