The poverty level in the US is defined by income level. http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/index.shtml http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/11poverty.shtml "The 2011 HHS Poverty Guidelines The following figures are the 2011 HHS poverty guidelines that are scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on January 20, 2011. (Additional information will be posted after the guidelines are published.) 2011 HHS Poverty Guidelines Persons in Family 48 Contiguous States and D.C. Alaska Hawaii 1 $10,890 $13,600 $12,540 2 14,710 18,380 16,930 3 18,530 23,160 21,320 4 22,350 27,940 25,710 5 26,170 32,720 30,100 6 29,990 37,500 34,490 7 33,810 42,280 38,880 8 37,630 47,060 43,270 For each additional person, add 3,820 4,780 4,390 " The chart indicates the poverty level (in the 48 contiguous states) for a family of 4 is now $22,350 in the US - that's $429.81 per week/40 hour week = $10.75 per hour. By world standards ($1.25 per day = $8.75 per week = $455 per year) the US standard is quite high. http://uk.oneworld.net/guides/poverty "Extreme poverty strikes when household resources prove insufficient to secure the essentials of dignified living. The absence of social safety nets in under-developed economies shuts off potential escape routes. The consequences of persistent poverty include insufficient food, children out of school, diminution of household back-up resources and exclusion from valuable social networks. Global Poverty Trends Based on World Bank figures which are used for official global poverty statistics, the number of people living below the international poverty line of $1.25 per day fell from 1.8 billion to 1.4 billion between 1990 and 2005." To compensate for poverty in the US, the per capita welfare spending is estimated at $2,358 per person of $20,967 of total Government spending per person. http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/per_capita Has poverty become too comfortable in the US. Is there adequate incentive for individuals to escape the gravity of benefits?