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Household Income, Per Capita Income, and Persons Below Poverty

Source: U. S. Census Bureau, 2000 Census of Population and Housing, Demographic Profile. Updated every 10 years.


Household income is the sum of money income received in calendar year 1999 by all household members 15 years old and over, including household members not related to the householder, people living alone, and other nonfamily household members. Included are in the total are amounts reported separately for wage or salary income; net self-employment income; interest, dividends, or net rental or royalty income or income from estates and trusts; Social Security or Railroad Retirement income; Supplemental Security Income (SSI); public assistance or welfare payments; retirement, survivor, or disability pensions; and all other income.

Per capita income is the mean income computed for every man, woman, and child in a geographic area. It is derived by dividing the total income of all people 15 years old and over in a geographic area by the total population in that area. Note -- income is not collected for people under 15 years old even though those people are included in the denominator of per capita income. This measure is rounded to the nearest whole dollar.

Families and persons are classified as below poverty if their total family income or unrelated individual income was less than the poverty threshold specified for the applicable family size, age of householder, and number of related children under 18 present (see table below for poverty level thresholds). The Census Bureau uses the federal government's official poverty definition.

If the total income of a person's family is less than the threshold appropriate for that family, then the person is considered poor, together with every member of his or her family. If a person is not living with anyone related by birth, marriage, or adoption, then the person's own income is compared with his or her poverty threshold.

The poverty thresholds are updated every year to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index. The poverty thresholds are the same for all parts of the country — they are not adjusted for regional, state or local variations in the cost of living. The specific thresholds used for tabulation of 1999 income in the 2000 census are shown at

Poverty status was not determined for institutionalized people, people in military group quarters, people in college dormitories, and unrelated individuals under 15 years old. These groups were excluded from the numerator and denominator when calculating the percent of persons below poverty.

Scope and Methodology:

These data are collected on the census long form. Roughly one in every six households received this sample questionnaire. The data are estimates and are subject to sampling variability. Information on the accuracy of data and sampling is in Chapter 8 of Summary File 3 documentation.

Since answers to income questions are frequently based on memory and not on records, many people tended to forget minor or sporadic sources of income and, therefore, underreport their income. Underreporting tends to be more pronounced for income sources that are not derived from earnings, such as public assistance, interest, dividends, and net rental income.


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Page Last Modified: May 21, 2009