What is Poverty?

The U.S. Government defines poverty based on the Federal Poverty Guidelines, listed below.  The guidelines used today are based on research conducted in the 1960s.  The research was intended to measure whether average income was adequate to provide sufficient family nutrition.  Federal Poverty Guidelines reflect what is too little for a family to live on, not what is enough.  As a result, the guidelines do not include the costs of health care, child support obligations, fines and fees, home or renter insurance premiums, security deposits, transportation and vehicle maintenance costs, life insurance, and other common expenses of daily living.  Consequently, conditions of poverty exist in households with incomes as high as 200% of Federal Poverty Level.  Eligibility for some Community Action programs is based on 60% of average Oregon median income.


Persons in family/household Poverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,420 for each additional person.
1 $12,490
2 $16,910
3 $21,330
4 $25,750
5 $30,170
6 $34,590
7 $39,010
8 $43,430


Federal Poverty Guidelines: Typically, in January or February of each year the federal government releases an official income level for poverty called the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines, often informally referred to as the “Federal Poverty Level.”  The benefit levels of many low-income assistance programs are based on these poverty guidelines.

What are the conditions of poverty?

People living in conditions of poverty are unable to meet their basic needs for food, shelter, heat, utilities, clothing, transportation, health and child care.  Typically, families living at or below Federal Poverty Level are economically insecure.  They must choose which basic needs they will fulfill.  In Klamath County, families must have annual incomes far above poverty level in order to stay ahead of conditions of poverty.  This is based on a family paying no more than 30% of annual income for housing (see Living Wage Calculator below).

Why are people poor?

There are four types of poverty: people with special needs who have limited or no opportunity for employment because they are severely disabled or elderly; individuals who experience long-term poverty due to generational influences, lack of language fluency, or basic life or work skills; people who experience unexpected or episodic poverty due to job loss, divorce, domestic violence or a short-term disability; and people who experience poverty due to inadequate income that doesn’t support their basic needs.  This group may be working part-time or working full-time for low wages without benefits.

Does full-time work lift people out of poverty?

Low wage jobs, by themselves, do not lift families out of poverty.  The 2016 minimum wage in Oregon is $9.50/hour or $19,760 annually.  According to 2016 Federal Poverty Guidelines, a family of three (i.e. one adult, two children) would be living below the poverty level if the family’s only source of income is a full-time job paying minimum wage.

Can low-income families get help budgeting?

Budgeting is important for all families.  Community Action offers assistance to low-income families through several programs.  However, even with sound budgeting, government assistance to families is not an economic solution because it does not provide sufficient aid to meet basic needs.  Employment that does not provide sufficient compensation to pay for basic costs of living is a problem that budgeting cannot solve.

How many people are living in poverty?

Per Klamath County 2010 Community Indicators, 17.6% of community families live below the poverty level in Klamath County or nearly one of every six persons.  It is estimated that 65% of public school children were eligible to receive free/reduced price lunches during the school year.

Poverty Related Materials:

The Living Wage Calculator shows the hourly rate that an individual must earn to support their family if they are the sole provider and are working full-time.

 “Hardworking people should be able to afford housing and still have enough money for food and basic necessities.”