The U.S. government measures poverty by a narrow income standardthat does not include other aspects of economic status, such asmaterial hardship (for example, living in substandard housing) ordebt, nor does it consider financial assets (including savings orproperty). The official poverty measure is a specific dollar amountthat varies by family size but is the same across the continentalU.S. According to the guidelines, the poverty level in 2008 is$21,200 a year for a family of four and $17,600 for a family ofthree (see table). The poverty guidelines are usedto determine eligibility for public programs. A similar but morecomplex measure is used for calculating poverty rates.


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