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Bureau of Labor Statistics > Price and Index Number Research > Price research data > Research Poverty Thresholds

SPM Historical Thresholds

A historic series of Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) thresholds is produced to provide data users with a methodologically consistent series. This new series is referred to as the "historical thresholds." For 2009-2018, the thresholds were calculated using the same computer code that was in effect to produce the 2021 thresholds, which accounts for the methodological changes officially approved by the Interagency Technical Working Group (ITWG) on the SPM on September 30, 2020. The 2021 version of the computer code was used because it was the most up-to-date version available when the historical thresholds were first produced in the early months of 2023. The thresholds in the series for 2019 (revised) and 2020 are those that were published on the SPM webpage in September 2021. A minor correction in the computer code that had been used to produce the 2019 (revised) and 2020 thresholds was introduced with the production of the 2021 thresholds, and subsequently in the production of the 2009-2018 historic thresholds.

As noted on the BLS Research Poverty Threshold webpage, changes approved by the ITWG SPM for the production of the thresholds were first reflected in the 2019 (revised) and 2020 thresholds, published in September 2021. To show the impact of the new methodology, the revised version of the 2019 threshold was released and compared to the 2019 thresholds previously published. See Supplemental Poverty Measure Thresholds Changes for a detailed description of the changes and a comparison of the two sets of thresholds. The changes are listed below and are incorporated in the full historic time series:

  1. The base of the thresholds has been moved rom the FCSU and S+U averages within the 30th-36th FCSU expenditure percentile range to 83 percent of the averages inherent within the 47th-53rd FCSU percentile range.
  2. The estimation sample has bene expanded from consumer units with exactly two children to consumer units with any number of children.
  3. The CE Interview data are lagged by one year.
  4. Imputed in-kind benefits from LIHEAP, NSLP, WIC, and rental assistance from government sources are added to the thresholds.
  5. Telephone service expenditures are no longer geographically adjusted; in other words, they are no longer included with other utilities but are instead included as a separate category, like with food and clothing.
  6. Home internet service expenditures have been added to the commodities.
  7. To adjust the five years of CE Interview data to threshold year dollars, the All Items Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (All Items CPI-U) has been replaced by a composited "Food, Clothing, Shelter, Utilities, and telephone and internet service" price index; this index is referred to as the FCSUti CPI-U.

Chart 1 displays the historical thresholds for 2009 to 2018 based on the 2021 thresholds methodology, and the published thresholds for 2019 (revised) through 2021. The data displayed in Chart 1, threshold standard errors (estimated using the CE provided replicate weights), and percentage of each housing tenure group in the weighted CE sample can be downloaded through the link below the chart.

[Chart data]

The Historical Shares of the thresholds above are organized by housing tenure from 2009 – 2018. Later shares can be found in XLSX: Threshold Shares along with shares calculated under previous methodologies.

Last Modified Date: November 1, 2023