Federal Poverty Level Guidelines and Chart

Are You Eligible for Federal Benefits?

A white woman and her daughter shopping with EBT coupons, also known as food stamps, represent the largest racial group that benefits from SNAP in the U.S.
Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

The U.S. federal poverty level is a measure of income the U.S. government uses to determine who is eligible for subsidies, programs, and benefits. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) updates the poverty guidelines each January to account for inflation.

Federal Poverty Guidelines Charts for 2021 and 2022

The HHS issues poverty guidelines for each household size. For example, the poverty level for a household of four in 2022 is an annual income of $27,750. To get the poverty level for larger families, add $4,720 for each additional person in the household. For smaller families, subtract $4,720 per person. Guidelines for Alaska and Hawaii are higher since it's more expensive to live there. The charts below calculate it for you:

2022 Federal Poverty Guidelines
 Number of People in Household 48 States & DC  Alaska  Hawaii
 One $13,590  $16,990  $15,630
 Two $18,310  $22,890  $21,060
 Three $23,030  $28,790 $26,490
 Four $27,750  $34,690 $31,920
 Five $32,470  $40,590 $37,350
 Six $37,190  $46,490  $42,780
 Seven $41,910  $52,390 $48,210
 Eight $46,630  $58,290  $53,640
 For eight or more, add this amount for each additional person  $4,720  $5,900  $5,430
2021 Federal Poverty Guidelines
Number of People in Household 48 States & DC Alaska Hawaii
One $12,880 $16,090 $14,820
Two $17,420 $21,770 $20,040
Three $21,960 $27,450 $25,260
Four $26,500 $33,130 $30,480
Five $31,040 $38,810 $35,700
Six $35,580 $44,490 $40,920
Seven $40,120 $50,170 $46,140
Eight $44,600 $55,850 $51,360
For eight or more, add this amount for each additional person $4,540 $5,680 $5,220


Agencies help families who earn more than the federal poverty level. For example, some programs offer subsidies to families whose income is 150% of the federal poverty level. For a household of four in 2022, that would be $41,625 (1.5 x $27,750).

Programs That Use the Poverty Guidelines

Many federal programs use the poverty guidelines to determine eligibility. The most notable are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as detailed below:

  • SNAP: Available to those with a gross monthly income of 130% of the federal poverty level and whose household in 2022 has less than $3,750 in assets if an elderly or disabled person lives there or less than $2,500 in assets if no elderly or disabled person lives there (up from $3,500 and $2,250 in 2021).
  • Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): Provides health care coverage to low-income individuals. Covering 72.5 million Americans, it is the largest source of U.S. health coverage.
  • ACA-expanded Medicaid: Available to adults in households whose income is 133% of the poverty level. The program does not take into account how much a family has in assets. In states that didn't accept expanded Medicare coverage, the income requirement depends on the state.
  • ACA: Provides health insurance at subsidized rates for those making 400% or less of the poverty level. The savings on insurance premiums vary according to income and household size.
  • Head Start and Early Head Start: Provide educational, health, and well-being programs for young children in families earning below the poverty guidelines. The National School Lunch Program provides free lunches to children in families with incomes at or below 130% of the federal poverty level. Those who earn below 185% are eligible for a discounted lunch.
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): Provides direct income assistance. The federal government funds it, but the states develop their own eligibility requirements. Most states use the federal poverty level when making the requirement.

How the Poverty Guidelines Measure Eligibility

The poverty level measures a family's annual cash income before taxes. It includes income from earnings, unemployment benefits, Social Security, rent, and dividends. It does not include non-cash capital gains or benefits such as public housing and food stamps.

The poverty guidelines only measure income. Other poverty indicators measure total wealth, annual consumption, or a subjective assessment of well-being. Those indicators point to one’s standard of living, which takes into account the material goods and services available to the individual or family.

Poverty Level Guidelines vs. Poverty Level Threshold

People use the phrase "federal poverty level" to describe the poverty guidelines. The U.S. Census Bureau provides statistics on the poverty threshold. It determines how many Americans live in poverty. HHS uses the poverty threshold to calculate the poverty guidelines and determine financial eligibility for federal assistance programs.

Pros and Cons

The poverty guidelines are useful because they draw a line in the sand, differentiating between those who are poor and those who aren't. It gives those who study low-income Americans—and those trying to help them—a starting place to understand and relieve poverty.

  • Adjusts for cost of living differences between Alaska, Hawaii, and the rest of the country

  • Slows down flight to urban areas

  • Opens up opportunities for assistance from government programs

  • Doesn't adjust for differences in the cost of living between urban and rural areas

  • Only measures income, not wealth or non-income benefits like food stamps

The guidelines also have some pluses and minuses. They are the same across the nation, except for Hawaii and Alaska. They do take into consideration the higher cost of living in those two states. Unfortunately, they don't take into consideration the poverty levels between the contiguous states.

The guidelines also ignore the big difference between urban areas and rural areas. As a result, benefits buy more in rural areas, but the opportunities to find a good job and escape poverty are generally more readily available in urban areas.


Poverty guidelines don't capture other contributions to well-being, either. A family may have lots of assets, such as housing and capital gains, and still live below the poverty level. Similarly, families that receive food stamps, housing assistance, and tax credits are also below the poverty level.


The federal poverty level originated with President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty initiative. It was one of the tools developed to measure and eradicate poverty. In his inaugural address, Johnson called for "the richest nation on earth" to win the war. He wanted to assist "American families with incomes too small to even meet their basic needs." This War on Poverty created some of today's welfare programs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I figure out my status relative to the federal poverty level?

To determine where you stand in relation to the poverty level, total all sources of income, and compare them to the HHS guidelines for the current year. If you live in Hawaii or Alaska, be sure to compare your income to the guideline levels in those states.

How is the poverty line measured?

Each year, the U.S. Census Bureau uses census data and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to determine an official poverty measure (OPM). This process weighs household income against costs to determine the minimum amount necessary to afford basic living expenses.

How many people in the U.S. are living below the poverty line?

According to 2020 U.S. Census data, there are roughly 37.2 million people living in poverty in the U.S. That's about 11.4% of the population.

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  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Poverty Guidelines.”

  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "2021 Poverty Guidelines."

  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Frequently Asked Questions."

  4. U.S. Department of Agriculture. "SNAP Special Rules for the Elderly or Disabled."

  5. Medicaid.gov. "Eligibility."

  6. Healthcare.gov. "Glossary: Federal Poverty Level."

  7. U.S. Department of Agriculture. "The National School Lunch Program," Page 2.

  8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "What Is TANF?"

  9. U.S. Census. "How the Census Bureau Measures Poverty."

  10. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Poor by What Standard?"

  11. University of Virginia, Miller Center. “Lyndon B. Johnson's State of the Union Address, Jan. 8, 1964.”

  12. University of Wisconsin-Madison Institute for Research on Poverty. "How Is Poverty Measured?"

  13. United States Census Bureau. "Income and Poverty in the United States: 2020."

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