Living Below the Poverty Line in the United States

By Abbey Tiderman 05.14.2015 interact

What do you think of when you hear the word “poverty?” Perhaps of those in developing nations, struggling with devastating effects of war, drought and natural disasters? While extreme poverty is, in fact, the reality for countless people across the globe, poverty also exists right here in the United States.

The 2013 census found that 45.3 million people live in poverty in the United States—1 in 6 Americans and 1 in 6 children.  The Federal Poverty Level is determined based on household size and annual income; individuals earning less than $11,770, a family of two earning less than $15,930, and a family of four earning less than $24,250 per year are considered to be living below the poverty line.

Poverty in America is experienced in big cities and rural areas alike, yet it disproportionately affects Blacks at 27.2 percent and Hispanic ethnicities at 23.5 percent. The poverty level among Whites is 9.6 percent while Asians is at 10.5 percent.

All of these numbers, however, only tell part of the story. Because the cost of living and job opportunities vary so widely depending on area of the country, it’s possible that many more are faced with the tough circumstances poverty brings. Behind the facts and figures are real people living without enough food to eat or proper shelter, and insufficient employment opportunities. They are hardworking families that may have experienced job loss, or whose minimum wage jobs simply don’t bring in enough money to pay the bills. They are military veterans, elderly and disabled individuals who often live on a low fixed income of government assistance, with limited options of lifting themselves out of poverty. Legislative change aims to help, but unfortunately doesn’t always translate into tangible and immediate improvement lives of struggling families.

For a better idea of the challenges those families face, take this video tour. Then test to see if you can live below the line with Spent (click on the image below to launch interactive game). And share your results in the comments section.



  1. Abigail

    I think that living on poverty would be unimaginably difficult. This game really shows you the struggles.

  2. Meredith K.

    I know I can not live under the poverty line but honestly I’d like to try. I go places and see the homeless all the time, asking for money and some people are so shallow they can’t give them some. It’s heart wrenching. But, I’m really fortunate that the world I live in is a pretty good one. If I was given the chance to do whatever I wanted to with all the money in the world, I would give it to all the good causes that help things like this. I can’t even imagine being stuck outside with no food, shelter, and people to support me.

  3. David davis

    I think I can live below the line because people out there live days or weeks with out food but we have so much we can all try to live with a 1.70 a day

  4. Tori

    I might be able to live in poverty, but it will be a lot harder on myself and my family

  5. tanner

    the game is great but me and my family are under the line but we have help.

  6. Myah Spruill

    I find it heart wrenching to see families in our comunity starving and barley having enough to pay the house bill, and to see someone famous doing what the poor do helps me to try and do that myself

  7. Joshua Sutton

    Thats horrible im just glad god gave me what i got SORRY to all the people that dont have alot of money

leave a comment