Most Americans will fall into at least one of these categories, while some might fit several. And while some of these categories may not be intuitively associated with poverty, none are immune to poverty.
While college-educated Americans and adults working full-time are far less vulnerable to the prospect of poverty than other groups, millions of people in both of these categories faced poverty in 2018.
Out of the 118 million people working full-time year-round, 2.6 million. or about 2.2%, live in poverty. And of the 79.8 million Americans with a bachelor’s degree or higher, 3.5 million, or approximately 4.4%, earn incomes below the poverty level.
While suburban poverty is on the rise, populations earning low incomes remain relatively concentrated in city centers. The West and South have higher poverty rates, but there are pockets of extreme poverty in every U.S. region. Poverty is also highly concentrated in the South, Southwest, and Appalachian regions.
It is important to note that the official poverty rate is an imperfect measure of what people actually face — the threshold is the result of the 1963 cost of nutritionally adequate food for the year multiplied by three, and indexed to inflation. A household’s cash income before taxes is compared to that threshold to determine poverty status.