What does under the poverty line mean?
The "poverty line" is a point where an individual's income just
meets the minimum necessary for basic survival in a society.
Firstly, there are two type of poverty: absolute poverty
(also known as destitution) is where an individual is unable to
meet basic human survival needs - they are unable to get enough
food, water, clothing, and shelter to continue to live, and will
die relatively shortly after reaching the absolute poverty level;
relative poverty (also known as being poor) where the
individual's standard of living is considerably below the mean
(generally, at least 50% below mean income level). Those in
relative poverty are not in any immediate danger of death, but
suffer from significant issues with malnutrition, health,
substandard clothing and housing, and an almost complete lack of
any luxury goods, as compared to a "typical" member of that
In most contexts, the poverty line is the income level where an
individual (or family) enters relative poverty. For instance, 2010
mean US household income is about $50,000. The poverty limit for a
family of four was a household income of $22,000, or about 44% of
the mean household income.
Thus, living under the poverty line means that the
individual/family is definitely poor, and cannot afford much more
than the very basics of life.
In the United States, the phrase "under the poverty line" has a
specific meaning in the context of government documents. It refers
to the "absolute poverty line": the income threshold below which
families or individuals are considered to be lacking the
resources to meet the basic needs for healthy living; having
insufficient income to provide the food, shelter and clothing
needed to preserve health.