Lesson 1 – Definition of Poverty & Prevalence Rates

This lesson will provide an overview of Dr. Ruby Payne’s Definition of Poverty and the “Federal Poverty Level”  established by the United States Federal Government. 

  • In addition, the lesson topics will provide you with access to online resources that will further highlight  facts regarding poverty, local prevalence rates.

Mentor/Volunteers: Review the information and visit online resources highlighted under each topic: Topic #1 – Local Poverty Stats; Topic #2 – Poverty Infographic: Did You Know?  

  • Topic #3 OPTIONAL – This is an optional video resource that provides a deeper overview of Dr. Ruby Payne’s Definition of Poverty and Strategies outlined in her book “A Framework for Understanding Poverty”:

Dr. Ruby Payne’s Definition of Poverty:  Most people generally associate poverty with economic status. However, Dr. Payne clearly defines understanding poverty as the varying degrees to which a person lacks any one of following nine resources:

  • Financial
  • Language (ability to speak in formal register)
  • Emotional
  • Mental
  • Spiritual
  • Physical
  • Support systems
  • Relationships/role models
  • Knowledge of middle class hidden rules

The above resources (or the lack of them) have an impact on a person’s ability to handle stressful situations. Imagine someone experiencing a job loss. What is the difference between that person having business connections (support systems) and not having connections of any kind? Which single mother is in a better position to leave work for the day: the one who works in a corporate office and can continue to work from home, or the one who works for an hourly rate closer to minimum wage? If a job candidate’s response to an initial greeting is, “How’s it hanging?” are that person’s future words likely to be taken seriously?

Economic Definition of Poverty:  Poverty rates in the United States have risen steadily since the 1970s. The federal poverty level (FPL) is the indicator the U.S. government uses to determine who is eligible for federal subsidies and aid. The following is a chart of the 2017:

Number of People in Household  48 States & DC    Alaska    Hawaii
   One         $12,060   $15,060   $13,860
   Two         $16,240   $20,290   $18,670
   Three         $20,420   $25,520   $23,480
   Four         $24,600   $30,750   $28,290
   Five         $28,780   $35,980   $33,100
   Six         $32,960   $41,210   $37,910
   Seven         $37,140   $46,440   $42,720
   Eight         $41,320   $51,670   $47,530
For more than eight, add this amount for each additional person
          $4,180     $5,230    $4,810