While 14.3% of all Americans were living in poverty last year, a record 6.3% were in so-called deep poverty, earning less than half the official poverty threshold, or subsistence rate, according to the new data on poverty released last week by the Census Bureau. The Figure tracks the share of the American population below half the poverty line over time. The current level is the highest seen since the Census Bureau started keeping records in 1975. It surpasses the prior peak of 6.2% in 1993, and is nearly double the low point of the series, 3.3% of the population living in deep poverty in 1976.
This sizable share of the American population falling below half the poverty line is particularly notable given that even the official poverty threshold – an annual income of $21,954 for a family of four – is widely considered insufficient to pay for life’s most basic essentials like food and housing. To fall below half the poverty line, a family of four would have an annual income of less than about $11,000.