Skip to the content

2015 Poverty Guidelines

Each year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is responsible for setting federal poverty guidelines based on family size and income level, which are used to determine whether an individual or family qualifies for certain government benefits. The poverty guidelines are published annually and are based on Census Bureau poverty thresholds.

Federal poverty guidelines are the basis for determining eligibility for public programs designed to support struggling workers. However, the federal guidelines do not take into account regional differences in basic living expenses and were developed using outdated spending patterns more than 45 years ago. The calculations that compose the federal poverty guidelines assume food is the largest expense, as it was in the 1960s, and that it consumes one-third of a family’s income. Today, however, the average family spends less than one-sixth of its budget on food. Omitted entirely from the guideline, child care is a far greater expense for families today with 23.5 million women with children under 18 in the labor force. Transportation and housing also consume a much larger portion of a family’s income than they did 45 years ago. 

Considering the vast changes in consumer spending since the poverty guidelines were developed, it is no wonder that this yardstick underestimates what Iowans must earn to cover their basic needs. Family supporting income for the different family types ranges from 1.6 to 2.9 times the federal poverty guideline for those families. Most families, in other words, actually require more than twice the income identified as the poverty level in order to meet what most would consider basic household needs. As the largest areas of families’ budgets (housing, transportation and child care) continue to grow, there will be an increasing disconnection between actual basic needs and the federal poverty guidelines used to describe and assist struggling Iowans.  [i]

The following figures are the 2015 HHS poverty guidelines as published in the Federal Register on January 22, 2015. http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/15poverty.cfm#guidelines

2015 POVERTY GUIDELINES FOR THE 48 CONTIGUOUS STATES
AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Persons in family/household

Poverty guideline

For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,160 for each additional person.

1

$11,770

2

15,930

3

20,090

4

24,250

5

28,410

6

32,570

7

36,730

8

40,890

 

[i]http://www.iowapolicyproject.org/2014Research/140226-COL.html